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story.lead_photo.caption At the Benton County Road Department in Bentonville, welder mechanic Derek Henson installs light bars Thursday above the snowplow of a dump truck that will be used to plow the roads if the forecast of snow proves correct. - Photo by Charlie Kaijo

Parts of northern Arkansas can expect more than 6 inches of snow from a weekend winter storm, forecasters with the National Weather Service said Thursday.

Sean Clarke, a meteorologist in the agency's North Little Rock office, said there's a strong possibility of heavy snow and up to a quarter-inch of ice to blanket the northern part of the state from late Friday through early Sunday. The weather service is "pretty confident" about that forecast, he added.

"We've got shallow, cold air moving in, and lots of moisture running over that shallow cold air," said Joe Sellers, a meteorologist in the weather service's Tulsa office, which is watching the storm for its effects near Oklahoma's Red River as well as neighboring Arkansas.

"It's going to hit us. ... Really the only question, at this point, is any shift in this system -- north or south -- and that would change impacts," he said.

A projection map shows significant snowfall near Harrison and Mountain Home in north-central Arkansas, which could see 6-7 inches of accumulation. Multiple inches of precipitation, including snow and sleet, also are expected near Fayetteville, Walnut Ridge and Clinton.

At this point, it looks like the brunt of the storm will arrive in Arkansas on Saturday morning, Clarke said. A winter storm watch across 22 northern counties extends from Friday night through early Sunday morning.

The state saw a light snow in mid-November, but forecasters say the approaching storm will be the state's first major bout of winter weather this season.

Spokesman Danny Straessle of the Arkansas Department of Transportation said the agency is pretreating highways with salt brine, dropping up to 200 pounds of salt per lane mile.

"What they don't get done today, they will spend all day doing tomorrow," he said Thursday.

Salt pretreatment doesn't prevent ice and snow from sticking to the pavement, but it makes it easier and faster to remove it, he said.

Straessle said people should stay off the roads if they can this weekend, but drivers can check road conditions at Drivers should "allow extra time [for trips], because it's going to take you a while to get from point A to point B."

The weather service also warned of possible power failures.

Trucks are stocked; chains are ready; and poles, transformers and other equipment are on hand at North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, which serves about 30,000 customers in Baxter, Fulton, Izard and Sharp counties, according to marketing and communications director Tori Moss.

Moss said if electrical service is disrupted, people should carefully follow manufacturer directions if they use alternative fuel- and wood-burning heat sources, especially generators, which can emit carbon monoxide or backflow electricity into power lines, endangering people trying to restore service.

People who must travel should have full tanks of gasoline, and pack extra water and blankets in the car, Clarke said. Sellers added that residents should stock up on any medications they need over the next few days, as well as pantry staples.

Business at grocery stores in northern Arkansas has been brisk with people buying meat, milk, eggs and bread, as well as gas-stove friendly foods such as soups, managers said.

"It's starting to pick up pretty good. I figure [today] will be the windstorm in here," said Brenda Astle, a manager at Harps Foods supermarket in Harrison. She said the store will stay open throughout the weekend.

In central Arkansas, minor snow, sleet and ice accumulations are expected, but the weather service said that could change if cold air moves in more quickly than expected.

Clarke said the central part of the state will likely receive very cold rain Saturday.

"Worst-case scenario, the central Arkansas area could get 2 to 3 inches, but officially we aren't predicting more than an inch," he said.

Meteorologist Chris Nuttall of the National Weather Service in Shreveport said the agency expects 3-5 inches of rain across southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana, especially today and Saturday.

Depending on how fast the rain falls, he said people in southern Arkansas counties should be on alert for flooding, and under no circumstances should people drive around road barricades or onto a roadway that's covered in water.

"It only takes 6 inches of flowing water to knock people off their feet," he said.

Any snowfall probably won't hang around into next week, forecasters said. Temperatures should reach into the 40s Monday and move into the 50s next week.

Meteorologists described the approaching storm as typical for the region at this time of year. The region sees this type of weather two or three times a year, said meteorologist John Sirmon with the National Weather Service in Memphis.

Nationally, he said climate predictions are showing a warmer-than-normal winter, but that's not always how things turn out.

"It just takes one big storm, and it can be remembered as a pretty brutal winter," he said.

Information for this article was contributed by Stephen Simpson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 12/07/2018

Print Headline: Weather service 'pretty confident' in snow, ice as weekend winter storm hits large part of Arkansas


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