Kay Ellen Wilkerson of Fayetteville walks Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, with dog Calli along Skyline Drive beneath ice-covered trees in Fayetteville. A winter storm brought ice and sleet, making travel in the morning difficult. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)
An ice storm warning is in effect for portions of central and northeastern Arkansas, including Little Rock, officials said Monday. A winter weather advisory is in effect for most of the remaining parts of the state.
An ice storm warning is used to describe weather conditions where at least a quarter inch of ice is forecasted, said Colby Pope, a meteorologist with the weather service in North Little Rock.
“A quarter of an inch is really entering that threshold where the impacts of ice are really ramped up and we can see disruptive behavior from the weather, like damage to powerlines or trees,” he said.
Accumulating ice is possible across much of Arkansas, with as much as a half-inch or more of ice being forecast in the central third of the state through Wednesday morning, a tweet from the National Weather Service said.
Just before 10:30 a.m. Monday, the weather service said the ice storm warning had been extended west to include most locations in between the Interstate 40 and Interstate 30 corridors across west central Arkansas.
As temperatures drop to freezing or lower, freezing rain or sleet could be seen in portions of northern and central Arkansas by Monday afternoon, according to a briefing from the weather service.
Pope said Arkansans should expect to see the winter weather come in two waves and that the state is currently in the first wave, with travel in some areas being impacted.
The first wave is expected to last until Monday evening, and a pause in rain is forecasted for Tuesday morning, meteorologists said.
Most of the ice accumulation is forecasted to come with the second wave, which is expected to enter the state on Tuesday afternoon and evening, a briefing from the weather service said.
“A large chunk of central Arkansas could see anywhere from a quarter inch to a half inch of ice accumulation with the second wave,” Pope said.
He said areas with a winter weather advisory should expect a glaze of ice that is less than a quarter of an inch thick, but that much could still affect road conditions.
Pope said parts of northern Arkansas could see snow or sleet this week.
He warned Arkansans to be aware that the heavy, wet snow parts of the state saw recently could exacerbate the impact of this weather. “That means their trees are weaker and more likely to fall, and it is more likely that they will experience sporadic power outages,” Pope said.
The ice should be mostly melted by Wednesday evening as temperatures rise above freezing and rain moves back into the state, he said.
“People should still be careful getting out on Wednesday and Thursday, though, as there could be downed trees. People should just be aware,” Pope said.
The winter weather is expected to remain through Wednesday morning. Travel impacts are likely Monday, the weather service in Tulsa said.
Ice patches were reported on most of the main highways and roads in northern and western Arkansas, according to the website idrivearkansas.com.
“Additionally, portions of northern Arkansas could see up to an inch of sleet/snow accumulation,” the briefing said.
Authorities cited icy roads in reporting a fatal wreck in Benton County.
Lt. Shannon Jenkins, a spokesperson for the Benton County sheriff’s office, said a flatbed truck hauling equipment lost control and flipped on Guyll Ridge Road east of Avoca on Monday morning. The driver was killed, Jenkins said.
The crash was weather-related, she said. The name of the person who was killed wasn’t immediately released.
The Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School districts have said they plan to use alternate methods of instruction, or remote learning, for classes on Tuesday.
Events, activities and games scheduled after school on Monday and Tuesday have been canceled or postponed due to inclement weather, officials said.
All three central Arkansas school districts said officials will continue to monitor the weather before making a decision about how students will be taught on Wednesday.
The Little Rock district in a news release encouraged students and teachers to take their electronic devices home on Monday, in order to complete their work there.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus has announced it will be closed on Tuesday, but classes scheduled for Monday afternoon and evening are allowed to meet online or on campus, depending on what each instructor decides.
Cabot Public Schools announced that they will be closed Tuesday, and students will shift to virtual learning.
The Sheridan School District has canceled in-person classes for Tuesday, and schools will use an alternate method of instruction, a release from the district said Monday afternoon.
Gentry School District students will also be learning remotely on Tuesday.
Searcy School District will be closed on Tuesday.
The Bentonville School District announced on Twitter a snow day Monday for students and staff, and the Fayetteville School District will transition to a remote learning day.
The Springdale School District also declared a snow day.
Rogers School District buildings are closed today. Students were already scheduled to be out today, but all district professional development will now be held online, according to a Twitter post.
Arkansas Tech University in Russellville will shift to virtual classes and operations as well, beginning at 1 p.m. on Monday, a release from the school said.
But schools in the Russellville School District will be closed on Tuesday, with no remote learning planned, a news release said.
The day will be made up on May 26, the release said.
Officials said the district's schools will also dismiss two hours early on Monday, due to inclement weather, and buses will run with the early dismissal time.
Arkansas State University in Jonesboro has canceled all on-campus classes on Tuesday and will close its offices on Tuesday.
The student union will be open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. for those living on campus, and the dining hall will be open for brunch hours, on Tuesday.
Monday night's on-campus classes were also canceled, and most on-campus facilities will shutter at 4 p.m., the school announced.
UTILITY & ROAD PREP
Entergy has began preparing for the wintry weather by staging crews, equipment and supplies in areas of the state likely to be the hardest hit, a news release said on Monday.
Officials said scouts, vegetation crews, linemen and others will be on hand to assist in the event of power outages.
“Additional resources from other mutual assistance energy companies have also been requested,” the release said.
According to the release, one half-inch of ice can increase the weight of a tree limb as much as 30 times, causing even smaller limbs to bend or snap, falling onto power lines and causing an outage.
Ice on power lines can also create extra weight, causing them to fall or stretch, which can lead to power interruptions, officials said.
Road conditions are another concern.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has activated Arkansas National Guard winter weather support teams, the National Guard announced Monday.
Each team consists of five members that will help assist stranded motorists, a news release said.
Arkansas State Police Troop L in Lowell and Troop H in Fort Smith will each receive support from two teams in the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade, officials said.
Troops from 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are prepared to help troopers in Newport, Forrest City and Clarksville as weather conditions warrant and as the state police determines a need.
“Teams are not authorized to recover privately owned or commercial vehicles,” the release said.
“Aside from icy roads, one of our biggest concerns with ice is its accumulation on trees and power lines, which can be very dangerous when positioned over a roadway,” the Arkansas Department of Transportation said in a tweet on Monday.
The transportation department said it has chainsaw crews ready to take care of any trees and tree limbs impacting travel.
The Pulaski County Road and Bridge department said late Monday afternoon that it will have crews on standby and trucks and equipment ready to mobilize to improve conditions on elevated surfaces.
The department will have shift assignments for essential personnel as well as all equipment ready for possible plowing/sanding and clearing of debris such as trees, according to a news release.
Little Rock's Public Works Operations Division is working 12-hour shifts until the inclement weather concludes. There is an ample supply of sand and salt mixture if needed for city streets, and both large and small trucks are fitted with spreaders and plows, according to a news release.
In Washington County, Road Department crews began spreading gravel on county roads around 3 a.m., according to Road Superintendent Jeff Crowder.
On Monday morning, he said the forecast of more frozen precipitation means road conditions will likely worsen later in the day.
“Right now, the roads are a lot better than they were at 3 a.m. when we deployed,” Crowder said around 9 a.m. “The main arterials are patchy with ice. We’re expecting some more weather to come through this afternoon, freezing drizzle and rain, so anything that we’ve got now it’s just going to compound it.”
Crowder said that the county may use some de-icer on roads this afternoon, if conditions are right. Otherwise, he said, the main effort will be to spread gravel on the most traveled roads and known trouble spots.
The Washington County sheriff’s office is compiling a list of road closings, accidents and other weather-related information on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
Benton County Road crews began to treat county roads with salt and sand at 5 p.m. Sunday, said Melody Kwok, county communications manager. More salt and sand will be put down today, she said.
Benton County Judge Barry Moehring announced at 6:30 a.m. that county offices and circuit courts are closed today. Jury selection was set to begin today in the third trial for Mauricio Alejandro Torres, 53, a Bella Vista man accused of killing his 6-year-old son in 2015.
The opening of Washington County offices was initially delayed to 10 a.m., but County Judge Patrick Deakins subsequently decided to close the courthouse for the day.
The Quorum Court’s County Services Committee meeting scheduled for Monday night was canceled, Deakins said, as was a Washington Water Authority meeting that was scheduled for Monday morning.
The North Little Rock Sanitation Department will run their regularly scheduled routes, while the Parks Department and Community Center will delay opening until 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers canceled the Arkansas River Master Plan public workshop scheduled for Tuesday at Faith Baptist Church, 5600 Camp Robinson Road.
The public can still attend workshops set for 3-7 p.m. Monday at the Russellville Site Office, 1598 Lock and Dam Road, and for 3-7 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Delta Rivers Nature Center, 1400 Black Dog Drive in Pine Bluff.
More information is available here.
The Little Rock Zoo and the Clinton Presidential Center, including 42 bar and table and the Clinton Museum Store, will be closed Tuesday.
The city of Bryant has moved its Tuesday council meeting to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 6, and city offices will be closed on Tuesday.
The Saline County Courthouse and all county offices will be closed on Tuesday.
The city of Little Rock will open an emergency shelter at the Dunbar Community Center at 7 p.m. Monday.
The shelter at the center, 1001 W. 16th St., will be operated by The Van. The Van will conduct coordinated pickups across the area on Monday, in partnership with Park Hill Christian Church. For transportation to the shelter, call (501) 955-3444.
Little Rock Animal Services recommends that pet owners move outdoor pets indoors during the extreme cold.
If that’s not an option, then dogs should have dry, warm bedding inside a weatherproof doghouse, according to a news release. Outdoor cats should have proper shelter as well.
Water should be clean and changed out regularly to prevent freezing, the release states.
Officials also said the city's Animal Services department and the Little Rock Police Department will respond to complaints about animals not being properly cared for during a winter weather event.
Information for this article was contributed by Mike Jones of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
This graphic from the National Weather Service shows ice totals forecasted across the state through Wednesday morning. (National Weather Service/Twitter)