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Friday, December 19, 2014, 2:22 p.m.
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Power failures top 40,000 in Arkansas ice storm

Icy system shuts schools, clogs roads

By Staff and wire reports

This article was originally published February 4, 2014 at 6:39 a.m. Updated February 4, 2014 at 4:15 p.m.

a-large-ice-covered-hardwood-tree-fell-over-and-landed-on-a-power-line-snapping-the-utility-pole-off-and-causing-the-lines-and-transformers-to-land-on-the-street-in-the-10000-block-of-mablevale-pike-in-little-rock-tuesday-feb-4-2013

A large ice-covered hardwood tree fell over and landed on a power line, snapping the utility pole off and causing the lines and transformers to land on the street in the 10,000 block of Mablevale Pike in Little Rock Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2013.

February 2014 Winter Storms

Arkansas winter weather photos for February 2014

Icy weather turns highways slick

Numerous wrecks were reported Tuesday morning as a system dropped freezing rain, sleet and rain on the greater Little Rock area. (By Gavin Lesnick)
[View Full-Size]

A sport utility vehicle rests on its side Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, after a wreck on Interstate 430 North at Colonel Glenn Road in Little Rock.

A truck overturns Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, on Interstate 30, blocking the Clinton Avenue exit that leads to Little Rock's River Market District.

4:15 p.m. UPDATE:

Wintery precipitation is ending in west and central Arkansas but the sleet, snow and freezing rain aren't done with the eastern part of the state yet.

State police on Tuesday attributed a traffic fatality to the icy conditions. Troopers said 36-year-old Jeffery Dee Buck of Des Arc died in a 7 a.m. single-vehicle crash on Interstate 40 in Lonoke County.

Officials said Buck was westbound when he lost control on an icy bridge, left the highway and crashed into a stand of trees. The police report says freezing rain was falling when the crash occurred.

Power failures continued to mount across the state on Tuesday. Entergy Arkansas reported nearly 42,000 failures. First Electric Cooperative had 2,500 and Southwest Electric Power Co. had 3,750. Craighead Electric Cooperative reported several hundred power failures.

  • The Associated Press

1:18 p.m. UPDATE:

An ice storm warning has been downgraded to a winter weather advisory in central Arkansas and no significant further icing is expected there, the National Weather Service said.

But power failures — which by 1 p.m. numbered more than 33,000 in the state — could continue to rise, officials warned.

John Lewis, senior forecaster with the weather service in North Little Rock, said temperatures had reached 32 by the early afternoon.

"So we're pretty well changing over to rain here locally," he said. "Look for rain here for the next couple hours or so."

The ice storm warning, which had been in effect for Conway, Garland, Grant, Hot Spring, Jefferson, Lonoke, Montgomery, Perry, Pope, Prairie, Pulaski, Saline and Yell counties, was downgraded shortly before 1 p.m.

A winter storm advisory remained in effect for the area because it's still possible small pockets of freezing rain will move through, but they won't have any significant impact, Lewis said.

Further north, the ice storm warning remained in effect and some additional accumulation was possible, "but it's not going to be a tremendous amount," Lewis said shortly after 1 p.m.

Roadways, especially bridges and overpasses, could still refreeze overnight if temperatures dip back below freezing, Lewis said, and power failures will continue to be a concern. Winds are expected to pick up Tuesday night into Wednesday, which could cause iced branches to fall and take out power lines, according to Lewis.

Entergy Arkansas at 1:15 p.m. said 33,500 customers were in the dark including:

— Nearly 7,000 in Garland County

— More than 3,300 in Conway County

— More than 4,000 in Mississippi County

— More than 2,000 each in Cross, Pope and Pulaski counties

  • Gavin Lesnick, Arkansas Online

10:34 a.m. UPDATE:

Freezing rain is expected to continue falling through the morning and early afternoon for much of the state, making bridges and overpasses slick and coating trees and wires with a fine glaze of ice.

John Lewis, senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, said a quarter-inch to a half-inch of ice is expected by the time the system tapers off about 3 p.m.

"Hopefully by that time, temperatures will have come up to freezing or maybe a little above," Lewis said. "But until that happens, we're looking for ice to continue for much of northern and central Arkansas."

An ice-storm warning runs through 6 p.m. for a large swath of that region, including Little Rock.

Lewis said the ice is accumulating mostly on elevated surfaces like bridges and overpasses. Non-elevated roads were largely just wet — and not frozen — as the morning progressed.

Still, authorities urged drivers to use caution. Numerous wrecks were reported Tuesday morning.

By 10 a.m., motorists traveling along the I-430 bridge were slowed by increased slush on the roadway for the entire length of the bridge. Financial Centre Parkway and Chenal Parkway had minimal ice and slush on the side of the roads.

More hilly and curvy roads such as Cantrell Road and Pleasant Valley Drive remained somewhat slick about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, though little-to-no traffic was on them then.

The Arkansas Department of Highway and Transportation reported ice patches on all Little Rock-area interstates. The agency showed some form of slick conditions on major highways around much of the northern half of Arkansas and some points further south, including Arkadelphia.

Lewis said ice freezing rain would continue to glaze trees and utility lines. He said there likely won't be "widespread" power failures, but there will be some.

"The thing I would be most concerned with heading from central into northeast Arkansas is how much buildup we're going to have on trees and power lines," he said. "I think we're going to have some of that this afternoon."

Entergy Arkansas reported about 16,947 customers in the dark at 11:30 a.m. with about 4,600 of those in Garland County.

  • Gavin Lesnick, Arkansas Online

10 a.m. UPDATE:

The National Weather Service in Little Rock has issued an ice-storm warning in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Mainly freezing rain and some sleet is expected in the warning area, which comprises Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Garland, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lonoke, Montgomery, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Sharp, Stone, Van Buren, White and Yell counties.

Ice accumulations will amount to 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, and travel will be affected into the early afternoon, forecasters said. Weather service officials advised drivers to stay off the roads if possible.

Traffic volume decreased between 8 and 10 a.m. because of widespread closings of schools and businesses, and major interstates in Pulaski County and in parts of eastern Saline County had by 10 a.m. developed wet and slushy conditions from the early morning ice and sleet.

Several drivers on the Interstate 440 bridge traveling east were slowed by slick conditions, reducing speeds to 30 mph and 40 mph as they crossed about 9:30 a.m.

Driving conditions on I-430 and Cantrell Road, two areas with high traffic volumes and a number of wrecks Tuesday, have become clear as of 9:45 a.m., with wet roads the only problem.

  • Gavin Lesnick, Arkansas Online

EARLIER:

Dozens of school districts across Arkansas called off classes Tuesday as a winter storm packing sleet and freezing rain moved across the state.

School districts including Pulaski County, Little Rock and North Little Rock canceled classes, and state offices were shut to all but essential personnel. Click here for a full list of closings.

Much of the state was under a winter weather advisory through 6 p.m. The National Weather Service said the storm would quickly spread across Arkansas in the morning, with areas north of a line from Waldron to Russellville to Batesville getting a mix of sleet and freezing rain. Areas north and west of Clarksville, Leslie and Mountain Home will get more sleet and snow, the weather service said.

Snow and sleet accumulations could reach 1 to 2 inches with higher amounts closer to the Missouri border. Ice amounts will range from a tenth to a quarter of an inch, the weather service said.

In Little Rock, the precipitation was starting to fall about 6 a.m. Several wrecks were reported on area highways.

Before 7 a.m., a large truck topped on Interstate 30 at the Clinton Avenue exit, blocking the path to Little Rock's River Market area.

About 8 a.m. on Interstate 430 North at Colonel Glenn Road, a Chevrolet Trailblazer topped into its side. At least one injury was reported, but it did not appear to be serious. Traffic was backing up on I-430, with only the right-hand lane of traffic moving.

  • Gavin Lesnick, Arkansas Online

Information for this article was contributed by ArkansasOnline reporter Gavin Lesnick and The Associated Press.

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