At least two people were killed in Arkansas road accidents Friday as a winter storm blew through the state, dropping snow and closing schools. Other parts of the country also faced a wintry blast.
A man clears a sidewalk as snow falls Friday in New Bedford, Mass. Massachusetts is expecting a wintry weekend.
Motorists step out to survey the damage after several accidents Friday on icy roads in Nashville, Tenn.
Bill Thompson, an employee of Flash Pressure Cleaning, uses a plow blade to clear a shopping center parking lot Friday morning at Markham Street and John Barrow Road in Little Rock.
Little Rock police work outside the Oyster Bar restaurant at 3003 W. Markham St., where a witness said a car swerved to avoid another vehicle and then slid across the median and into the eatery Friday morning. More photos are available at arkansasonline.com/galleries.
Facilities manager Art Edwards scrapes at snow in front of the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock on Friday.
A Benton man died in a single-vehicle accident on Interstate 30 in Saline County, and a child died in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 65 in Van Buren County, according to Arkansas State Police reports. The crashes happened in a 10-minute span shortly after 8 a.m., and both were on roads covered in snow or ice, according to the reports.
On the slick roads, vehicles ran into mailboxes, street signs, ditches, a Little Rock restaurant and one another, officials said. At least 52 public school districts as well as courthouses across Arkansas were closed for the day after morning flurries began to accumulate.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, whose scheduled speech before the Northeast Arkansas Political Animals group in Jonesboro was canceled, closed all nonessential state offices Friday morning.Gallery: SNOW: Photos from Jan. 6, 2017 storm
According to unofficial National Weather Service totals, Morrilton and Alma along Interstate 40 had some of the heaviest snowfall Friday morning, with accumulation approaching 3 inches in those areas. A second round fell in parts of the state Friday afternoon.
Public-safety officials said Arkansans should restrict their driving today and be cautious on roads and bridges, which are expected to remain icy as temperatures dip below freezing. The National Weather Service said temperatures Friday night would drop as low as 2 degrees in Fayetteville and 13 degrees in Little Rock.
"Even if the roads look OK, they still are dangerous," state police spokesman Liz Chapman said. "If you can stay home, stay home."
Nationally, winter-storm warnings were in effect Friday from Louisiana to Delaware, with up to 3 inches of snow projected for Atlanta and up to a foot for Norfolk, Va., The Washington Post reported. Alabama and Georgia issued emergency declarations, and Delta Air Lines announced the cancellation of 350 flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest, The Associated Press reported.
Several flights to and from Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock were canceled Friday because of wintry weather elsewhere, airport spokesman Shane Carter said. Airport crews at 4 a.m. began sweeping snow and kept the main runway and taxiways clear so all morning flights were able to depart on schedule, Carter said.
"With the texture of the snow being dry, we were able to sweep and blow it off," Carter said.
Most of the canceled flights were going through airports in Atlanta or Charlotte, N.C.
Daniel Blair, 49, of Benton died when his vehicle hit an ice patch on westbound Interstate 30 in Saline County and then struck a concrete barrier at 8:20 a.m., state police reported. The vehicle overturned and then landed on its wheels in the middle of the interstate.
A child was killed and two people were injured in an 8:10 a.m. crash on U.S. 65 at Bee Branch in Van Buren County. The child, whose age was not listed, was a passenger in Dodge vehicle that slid into the southbound lane, where it was struck by a semi-truck, according to a state police report.
The Dodge's 40-year-old driver and a 19-year-old passenger were injured.
Chapman said the state police received reports of people sliding off roadways, particularly in north, northeast and central Arkansas, but no other major crashes were reported as of late Friday afternoon.
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department began working late Thursday to cover highways and interstates with salt brine before the storm, so that when the snow fell, it melted more quickly, spokesman Danny Straessle said.
Department crews worked throughout Friday to dump 200 pounds of rock salt for every lane mile of highway and were preparing to do the same thing into today, Straessle said.
With another round of snow starting to fall in parts of Arkansas on Friday afternoon, Straessle warned that snow may start to accumulate in previously cleared places and that frigid overnight conditions may refreeze melted snow.
"Certainly, black ice is a concern," Straessle said.
Little Rock received between 1 and 1.5 inches of snow Friday morning, Fort Smith had about 2 inches and Jonesboro registered about 1.5 inches, according to National Weather Service offices in central Arkansas, Tulsa and Memphis. South Arkansas received just a dusting with little accumulation, according to the weather service office in Shreveport.
Little Rock public-works crews were expected to work through Friday night to clear roads and bridges of snow, city spokesman Jennifer Godwin said. The crews focused on nine major routes -- such as bridges, streets that connect to hospitals and other highly traveled roads -- and shifted to neighborhood streets once those routes were clear, Godwin said.
A car crashed into The Oyster Bar in Little Rock on Friday morning. A witness said the car swerved to avoid another vehicle before striking the restaurant at 3003 W. Markham St.
Delayed garbage pickup in Little Rock and North Little Rock should resume today.
In Morrilton, Kathi Threadgill drove her car up a hill to work at 6 a.m. Friday to the Shell gas station she manages on Arkansas 9. Threadgill, 40, said she made her commute while snow fell, and despite a couple of scares she made it to work fine.
"I almost went into two ditches," Threadgill said.
Rod Hoyt made his 6 a.m. commute from Morrilton to Conway without skidding off the slick roads, he said. After returning to town around midday, he reported a line of five vehicles in a ditch off Interstate 40 west of Plumerville.
"My Cadillac does pretty good in the snow, so I made it all right," Hoyt said.
Sam Mitchell, who owns Jim Smith Collision and Wrecker Service, which has offices in Faulkner and Pulaski counties, said Friday afternoon that he had roughly three times the number of calls he receives on a typical day.
"I was on my way to pull one out [of a ditch], and there were two wrecks on a side road while I was trying to get there," Mitchell said, noting that both crashes were minor.
Roads were slick in Conway, but police and Faulkner County authorities said they knew of no serious snow-related accidents or other problems. Conway police spokesman LaTresha Woodruff said officers were seeing a lot of "fender benders."
The Conway Ministry Center on Harkrider Street posted a sign in the snow-covered lawn advising it would have a "warming center" open for anyone needing shelter Friday night.
Youngsters took advantage of the day off school to have fun in the powdery snow.
At Haynes Ace Hardware on Morningside Drive, assistant manager Brooks Ray said the store had been busy selling sleds as well as ice-melting products.
"There have been tons of them [parents and children] in here this morning" looking for sleds, Ray said. He said the store had sold more than 100 and perhaps as many as 200 sleds by midday. "There's just a couple left," he said.
Steve Lunk, who has a small farm and lives in the Treasure Hills subdivision along U.S. 65 just north of Conway, said he had to make three trips up a slick incline to get on the highway.
Lunk braved the cold and the snow to deliver produce ranging from freshly picked pecans to honey and eggs to St. Peter's Episcopal Church, where customers pick up the produce once a week.
Lunk said he drove about 35 mph on the snow-packed highway, where the speed limit is normally 55 mph. "It's not pretty," he said.
Expecting the snow, a fellow farmer delivered his produce Wednesday rather than risk the slick drive from Marshall in Searcy County, Lunk said.
Farmers Eddie Stuckey and Stormy Henderson drove from northern Pulaski County to deliver carrots, kale and cabbage.
"We slid more right here in town" than while driving on Interstate 40 and Arkansas 89, Stuckey said.
Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown, who lives in Alma, said midday Friday that deputies responded to several minor wrecks and reported seeing vehicles that were abandoned alongside county roads.
"From daylight until about 8:30 [a.m.], we were really inundated with calls," Brown said.
About 2 inches of snow fell in Fort Smith and the surrounding area from 2:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. Friday.
Fort Smith Street and Traffic Control Department Director Greg Riley said crews spent Thursday pretreating trouble spots: hills, bridges, intersections and concrete roads.
After the snow began to fall, crews driving snowplows and salt and sand trucks began treating the main roads, Riley said. He said treatment would continue during the daylight hours Friday and will resume today.
Efforts to treat a few hills in Fort Smith were hampered Friday by cars that slid off the roads and blocked sand and salt vehicles, Riley said.
Cars sliding on the snowy and icy roads took out several road signs around town and one traffic-control cabinet at Lexington and Dodson avenues, he said.
Information for this article was contributed by Debra Hale-Shelton, Dave Hughes, Emma Pettit and Jake Sandlin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
A Section on 01/07/2017
Print Headline: Winter's first storm in state icy, deadly; Wrecks fatal to 2; schools shut down