A heavier layer of ice on trees and power lines across Pine Bluff on Thursday left evidence of a more serious ice storm than the first two rounds this week.
The visible ice, up to a half-inch in many areas, led to power outages and downed limbs, some fallen and crushed to the ground and others bent over streets, forcing drivers to use caution on streets where the ice had otherwise melted. Despite the clear roads, the National Weather Service in North Little Rock "highly discouraged" travel.
As of 4:40 p.m., many neighborhoods within Pine Bluff remained without power while lines were energized in others. There were 10,570 customers in Jefferson County, nearly making up one-fourth of the 42,544 across Arkansas without power at the time. Most of the de-energized lines within Pine Bluff were in the western and southern areas of the city.
The numbers were staggering across the southeast corner of the state as well, including 1,341 outages in Cleveland County and 4,879 in Drew County. Pulaski County in central Arkansas reported only 72.
Entergy Arkansas spokeswoman Brandi Hinkle said at the time no general estimates were available for Pine Bluff or southeast Arkansas for the restoration of power, although crews were busy across the region.
"Ice has been collecting on tree limbs and onto the ground, and our crews have had to be careful to stay out of danger," Hinkle said. "I encourage customers to register for text alerts to get notifications on when power may be restored."
To register, visit EntergyText.com.
One-half inch of ice can increase the weight of a tree limb as much as 30 times, according to a news release from Entergy. The utility adds that estimated restoration times are based on assessments of damage in all affected areas, and those estimates will be communicated to customers.
"We ask for our patience, and please know restoring your power safely and quickly is our top priority," Entergy said in the release.
The National Weather Service North Little Rock office issued a weeklong hazardous weather outlook at 3:02 p.m. Thursday for a large part of the state, including nine counties in southeast Arkansas. The service encouraged drivers to use "extreme caution" in locations that remain at or just below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit), especially as utility companies increase traffic across southern and southeast Arkansas.
"Remain vigilant if you must travel as roads will still be hazardous in many locations of the previously issued Ice Storm Warning and even impassable in many locations with fallen trees and power lines that may block the roadway," the NWS said in its forecast. "This concern will become even more heightened overnight when visibility is hindered."
Widespread melting is expected Friday through Wednesday as temperatures climb back above freezing statewide, according to the NWS. However, overnight lows will dip below the freezing point, making black ice possible.
Both Entergy and the NWS encourage the safe use of generators.
Entergy recommends following all manufacturer's instructions, including hooking appliances directly to the generator, not the home. "Connecting a generator to the home could damage a home's equipment or Entergy equipment if not done by a professional," Entergy says.
It is a must for those using a generator to give it plenty of ventilation away from the home and not near any open windows or doors, according to the NWS. "Furthermore," it adds, "never place a generator inside of any structure. Generator exhaust contains carbon monoxide, an odorless gas, which can cause death. It's a must to practice proper generator safety."
All three school districts in Jefferson County -- Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel and White Hall -- will keep campuses closed Friday, marking the fourth day of alternate methods of instruction.
Southeast Arkansas College will remain closed through 8 a.m. Monday. An announcement from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff had not been made by the close of its business Thursday.
Pine Bluff City Hall and city buildings will resume normal operations at 8 a.m. Friday. Employees are asked to return to regular work sites.
Also, the Jefferson County Courthouse and county offices will open at 10 a.m. Friday.