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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Department of Transportation employees Freddie Hayes (left) and Keith Davis mix brine used to pre-treat roads Monday at the department’s area maintenance headquarters in Little Rock in preparation for winter weather overnight. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

A cold front plunged Arkansas into a deep freeze Monday and was expected to dump as much as 4 inches of snow on some parts of south Arkansas overnight.

The sun will be shining on most of Arkansas today, but the snow won’t melt much until temperatures rise above freezing Wednesday or Thursday, said Michael Brown, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.

Temperatures will stay below freezing today across Arkansas, according to the National Weather Service. High temperatures today are expected to be 11 degrees in Bella Vista, 23 degrees in Little Rock and 28 degrees in El Dorado.

Tonight, the lows will range from 7 degrees below zero in Bella Vista to 11 degrees in Magnolia, according to the National Weather Service.

[SHARE YOUR PHOTOS: Upload images of winter weather]South Arkansas will get the most snow accumulation, Brown said.

North Arkansas got some snow early Monday morning, but drier air came in that afternoon, and the snowfall tapered off in the northern part of the state. At noon Monday, Omaha in Boone County had 2 inches of snow on the ground, Brown said.

The snowfall was expected to begin in central Arkansas around 8 p.m. Monday as the front moved through heading southeast. But there would be a cutoff, Brown said. Downtown Little Rock may get 1.5 inches of snow while Maumelle, 15 miles to the northwest, was expected to get half an inch, he said. Conway, in the Arkansas River Valley, may not have any snow accumulation at all, he said.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation was busy Monday brewing salt brine and spreading tens of thousands of gallons of it on highways across the state.

Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the department, said it was an ideal situation because no rainfall preceded the predicted snow. If rain falls first, it’s difficult to pre-treat wet highways with salt brine because it gets washed away, Straessle said.

[CLOSINGS: Full list of schools closed due to weather]

“With this being a snow event, our goal here is basically to stay ahead of the snow,” he said. “We don’t want it to get packed down on the highway, because the snowpack can turn to ice and we would have a problem after that.”

When snow falls on pavement pre-treated with salt brine, the water mixes with the salt and produces heat, melting the snow, Straessle said.

Straessle said the department’s maintenance facility in southwest Little Rock had brewed 12,000 gallons of salt brine Monday to be used on Pulaski County highways.

Straessle advised motorists to check road conditions on idrivearkansas.com before driving today.

Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia canceled classes for today because of the predicted winter weather, noting that National Weather Service predictions called for as much as 4 inches of snow in Columbia County and surrounding areas. The winter storm warning also dipped into northern Louisiana and parts of Texas.

Dan Noble, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said the agency was monitoring the weather Monday afternoon and had a conference call with the National Weather Service.

“We are literally just trying to keep up to date and waiting to see what happens,” he said. “As of right now, it’s just normal operations.”

Meanwhile, churches in some parts of the state opened warming centers Monday before the temperatures plummeted.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Hot Springs opened a warming shelter Monday and it will stay open through breakfast Thursday, according to a voice mail recording from the Rev. C.B. Baker.

The temperature in Hot Springs was 50 degrees Monday afternoon when the warming shelter opened, but the National Weather Service was predicting a low of 14 degrees that night.

Today’s high is expected to be 23 degrees in Hot Springs, followed by a low of 10 degrees tonight.

The Little Rock Compassion Center was expecting an influx of people in its homeless shelters Monday night, Pastor William Holloway said.

The center, which has separate homeless shelters for men and women, had a total of 180 people stay Sunday night.

“We figure we’ll top out around 225,” Holloway said of Monday night.

The shelters have 200 total beds, and 100 mats can be put on the floor to accommodate as many as 300 people, he said.

Photo by Ben Goff
Chris Kester with the Bentonville Parks and Recreation Department spreads salt on the sidewalks Monday around the Bentonville square.

Print Headline: Snow collects in Arkansas as bitter cold sets in

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