Sleet settles in northwest Arkansas; ice is a concern further south
Sleet began falling in Fayetteville around 7 p.m. Wednesday — with snow expected to follow — as a winter storm moved through the state.
Northwestern Arkansas could get 6 to 8 inches of snow by Thursday evening, said Mike Teague, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa.
Further south in Arkansas there wouldn’t be as much snow but ice could be a problem.
“Power outages will be likely and you should prepare now!” according to the National Weather Service in North Little Rock. “Travel will be very treacherous, if not impossible!”
In its Wednesday night briefing, the weather service predicted dangerous ice accumulations for much of central Arkansas through Thursday.
The greatest accumulations – 0.5 to 0.75 inches of ice – were predicted for a band from Sheridan to Pine Bluff to Brinkley.
Accumulations of 0.24 to 0.5 inches of ice were forecast for more of southern, central and eastern Arkansas, including Little Rock, Hot Springs, Jonesboro and West Memphis.
“An eighth of an inch of freezing rain covering tree branches and lines can begin to cause outages by snapping branches hanging over power lines,” according to Entergy Arkansas, which provides electricity to about 722,000 customers. in 63 counties in Arkansas.
A half-inch of ice buildup can add 500 pounds to power lines or tree branches, which can snap and fall on people and property, according to the utility.
Dave Parker, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said crews began pre-treating highways Wednesday and would continue to do so, with salt or brine, overnight. Freeways, major freeways and overpasses were priorities, he said.
Parker said “strike teams” would be deployed Thursday to hard-hit areas of the state. Some will have chainsaws to clear roads if needed.
Little Rock was expected to have a low of 25 degrees Wednesday night.
The Dunbar Community Center at 1001 West 16th St. in Little Rock was made available for use as an overnight emergency shelter Wednesday night, said city spokesperson Spencer Watson. It is operated as a safe haven by the non-profit organization The Van (The One, Inc.)
The community center will open until 7 a.m. Thursday as an emergency shelter.
If the severe weather persists, the shelter can be extended through Thursday and Friday evenings, operating from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. each night, he said.
“In addition, a full night shift of 45 employees from the Public Works Operations Division is scheduled for a night shift beginning at 11 p.m. Wednesday, with a full morning shift (60 employees) ready to take over at 6 morning hours Thursday,” according to a press release from the City of Little Rock. “The city’s salt storage is full, with an ample supply of a mix of salt and sand prepared for city streets if needed. Both large and small trucks are equipped with spreaders and plows to deal with the accumulation of bad weather. Drivers are advised to be patient and careful and only travel if necessary on Thursday mornings. »
The city has urged people to bring their pets indoors in cold weather.
The freezing cold will persist for a few days.
“Following this event, it will be very cold on Friday and Saturday morning,” the weather service said in an email. “It could be deadly for people who lose electricity and have no heat source.”
As arctic air blows into Arkansas from the northwest, temperatures will drop into the 20s and 20s Friday morning, according to the weather service briefing.
“By Saturday morning, colder air will be in place as temperatures drop into the single digits near 20 degrees,” according to the briefing.