Ice storm warnings are set to go into effect for a number of counties across Arkansas, including Little Rock and much of the central region, as the state braces for a wintry system that could knock out power and make travel treacherous.
National Weather Service offices covering different regions of the state issued the warnings early Thursday morning for Thursday night into Friday.
Counties under them are: Arkansas, Cleburne, Conway, Crawford, Crittenden, Faulkner, Franklin, Garland, Grant, Hempstead, Howard, Independence, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lee, Little River, Lonoke, Miller, Monroe, Montgomery, Nevada, Perry, Phillips, Polk, Prairie, Pulaski, Saline, Scott, Sebastian, Sevier, St. Francis, White, Woodruff and Yell.
The weather service said the warned areas can expect significant ice and sleet accumulations coupled with gusty winds. Ice totals of a half-inch are expected in much of the state.
That combination increases "the threat of downed trees and power lines due to the weight of accumulated ice," the weather service said in a statement. "This will make travel very hazardous or impossible."
The event is expected to begin Thursday as rain before changing over to freezing rain in west central Arkansas late Thursday afternoon, the weather service said. The freezing precipitation will reach the region north of Searcy by nighttime and south of the I-40 corridor by daybreak Friday.
The wintry weather was starting earlier Thursday in Northwest Arkansas, where a number of school districts called off class for the day. The weather service at 9 a.m. reported freezing rain in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Harrison and Mountain Home.
In central Arkansas, the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts were working together Thursday to decide on whether to close Friday. A joint decision was expected after a 1:30 p.m. meeting.
Jerry Guess, superintendent of the Pulaski district, said the forecast makes it a "pretty clear conclusion that tomorrow is going to be dangerous."
"If conditions allowed us to come to school, I don't see someone who could conclude we could stay all day," he said.
The system comes to Arkansas a day after much of the state experienced unseasonably high temperatures. On Wednesday, the day before the ice storm warning was to go into effect, Little Rock broke its daily temperature record with a high of 77.
A high of 32 is forecast Friday.