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One reported dead after sleet stifles Northwest Arkansas

by Mike Jones, Tom Sissom | January 31, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
Derrick Porter, salesman at Lewis Automotive in Farmington, raises windshield wipers on cars Monday Jan. 30, 2023 as freezing rain begins to fall. The National Weather Service is calling for more winter weather this week with a possibility of snow and sleet Tuesday. Visit for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)

Police cited icy roads in a fatal wreck Monday morning as sleet swept in waves through Northwest Arkansas.

Lt. Shannon Jenkins with the Benton County Sheriff's Office said a flatbed truck hauling equipment lost control and flipped on Guyll Ridge Road east of Avoca. The crash was weather-related and the driver, James Edward Sawyer, 60, of Rogers, was killed, according to the Arkansas State Police.

Most of the region experienced a half-inch to an inch of sleet, said meteorologist Brad McGavock with the National Weather Service in Tulsa, Okla. An additional quarter inch or less could fall today, he said.

There were no widespread power outages reported by electric companies Monday. Sleet creates more of a travel issue than a power grid issue, McGavock said. If more frozen rain had fallen and accumulated it could have weighed down tree branches, he said.

"In this case, most of Northwest Arkansas had little to no freezing rain accumulation, and it pretty much fell as sleet," McGavock said.

Temperatures should peak in the mid-20s today. A small amount of additional precipitation is expected during the day but should quit by evening time, he said.

"I don't think it'll be dire," McGavock said.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday activated winter weather support teams from the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade to support Arkansas State Police Troop L in Lowell and Troop H in Fort Smith. Two teams supported each troop. The teams will be in place until road conditions improve and Arkansas State Police determines support is no longer needed, according to a National Guard news release.

Sanders on Monday evening issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency. She directed $250,000 from the Governor's Disaster Response and Recovery Fund to be used in disaster recovery efforts.

Fayetteville Police Sgt. Anthony Murphy reported about a half a dozen traffic accidents, saying it appeared most residents opted to stay indoors. Sleet covered most roadways in the city with a white sheen by the afternoon.

Dennis Birge, Bentonville transportation director, said most city streets were not passable by 2 p.m. Monday as sleet continued to fall. He said crews made a clearing pass on Walton Boulevard but it covered up quickly behind them.

Jury selection was set to begin today in the third trial for Mauricio Alejandro Torres, 53, a Bella Vista man accused of killing his 6-year-old son in 2015. However, Benton County facilities and circuit courts are closed.

Washington County Road Department crews began spreading gravel on county roads around 3 a.m. Monday, according to Jeff Crowder, road superintendent. Crowder prepared for road conditions to get worse as time went on.

"Right now, the roads are a lot better than they were at 3 a.m. when we deployed," Crowder said around 9 a.m. Monday "The main arterials are patchy with ice. We're expecting some more weather to come through this afternoon, freezing drizzle and rain, so anything that we've got now it's just going to compound it."

The Washington County Sheriff's Office posted updates to its Facebook page with pictures of roads and other weather-related information.

Benton County road crews began to treat county roads with salt and sand at 5 p.m. Sunday, said Melody Kwok, county communications manager.

Schools closed across the region Monday. School districts for Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville all announced remote learning days for students today.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus, the University of Arkansas Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas Community College locations also were closed Monday.

  photo  Kay Ellen Wilkerson of Fayetteville walks Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, with dog Calli along Skyline Drive beneath ice-covered trees in Fayetteville. A winter storm brought ice and sleet, making travel in the morning difficult. Visit for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

Print Headline: Sleet hits region, impacting roadways, causing closings


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