Today's Paper Arkansas News LEARNS Guide Legislature Sports Core Values Puzzles Newsletters Public Notices Archive Obits Opinion Story Ideas

Sanders declares emergency as Arkansas is slammed with ice, freezing rain

by Remington Miller, Dale Ellis, Daniel McFadin | January 31, 2023 at 5:24 p.m.
Chip O'Donnell with the Arkansas Department of Transportation hooks up a line as his truck is filled with deicer to treat roads on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued an executive order Tuesday, declaring a state of emergency due to the winter weather that began on Monday.

Sanders’ order removes regulations on commercial transportation hauling consumer goods or power transmission equipment for the next 30 days.

In her order, she noted the likelihood of downed power lines.

The order also suspends some procedures of the State Office of Purchasing and other offices to help provide the most aid possible to the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment and the state Department of Public Safety though the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management.

The order shall be in effect “until such time as the emergency conditions cease to exist.”

Another wave of precipitation, including freezing rain, began Tuesday afternoon.

The weather service in North Little Rock said a combination of rain, snow and freezing rain should cover most of the state by 3 p.m. Tuesday. 

The National Weather Service also expanded the ice storm warning to noon Thursday.

On Tuesday morning, it was expanded to include Ouachita, Calhoun and Bradley counties, according to a Twitter post. 

Central Arkansas is still expected to receive anywhere between a quarter of an inch and half an inch of ice Tuesday, the weather service said.


Several highways in Central Arkansas were coated with slush as of 2 p.m., according to the winter weather map on

Interstate 40 was covered with ice and ice patches. The westbound left lane of Interstate 40 near exit 142 has been cleared, the state Department of Transportation said just before 2:30 p.m. It had previously been blocked due to an accident. 

Jon Honeywell, director of Little Rock's Public Works Department, called conditions of the nine primary roadways a "mixed bag across the city," but that they hadn't seen a spot that was worse than others.

Crews will continue working in 12-hour shifts -- 75 people on the day shift and 50 at night -- to treat streets with a sand a salt mix. 

Honeywell said the work would likely last through Thursday morning.

"[We'll] keep plugging away at it until it stops either material coming down or we're able to get it off the streets and people can get around," he said. "We've done this over the last few years. It seems like we've done it a lot.

"So we've gotten a little better, a little more organized, a little more experience added, unfortunately, I guess you could say."

Clinton National Airport has also been addressing weather-related issues and preparing for more of the same.

It was open and operational on Tuesday.

By 3 p.m., the airport had seen 11 arriving flights canceled, with six delays, and eight departure cancellations with six delays.

The departing cancellations were primarily destined for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, along with Houston, Denver, Atlanta and St. Louis.

A release from the airport suggested that passengers check their flight status before arriving there, on the airport's or on their airline's website. 

Spokesperson Shane Carter said the condition of the airfield was "slushy" and that a crew of 25 people was on duty to tend to it.

"Our airfield team has been using a broom to try and keep everything just as dry as possible, and they'll continue working through the duration of the event," Carter said. "They will be taking breaks and then coming back to work later (Tuesday) evening ... Then they'll be working also tomorrow. 

"We have several that will be staying the night again in hotels. We have 15 hotel rooms that 15 people will be using tonight. And, once the employees get to the airport, we cook and provide everything that they need in order to be comfortable."

Carter said, in his 11 years working at the airport, it had only been closed, due to weather, twice.

In the southern third of the state, most highways were clear as of 2:10 p.m., the Department of Transportation's map showed.

U.S. 67 was completely blocked after several crashes, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation map.

And some of the major highways in southeast Arkansas are partially covered with ice, slush and ice patches, according to the map.

“The main area of concern for the heaviest ice accumulation stretches from near Mena eastward across central into eastern Arkansas,” a briefing from the weather service said Tuesday morning. 

A tweet from the weather service said that the ice is expected to make “traffic difficult to near impossible” as well as increase the potential for power outages and smaller trees or larger limbs falling.


Entergy’s outage map showed that over 4,000 customers in the state were without power at about 9:45 a.m., including roughly 2,500 customers in Mississippi County and 450 customers in Pulaski County.

During the first wave of winter weather on Monday, Entergy hit their peak number of outages -- 7,500 -- at 4:30 a.m., Brandi Hinkle, a spokesperson for the electric company, said Tuesday.

“We were able to cut that nearly in half by around 9:30 a.m.,” Hinkle said. “We had a kind of reprieve from the precipitation this morning.”

Mississippi County had over 2,000 outages as of 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday, and Hinkle said there are around 270 outages as of 12:30 p.m.

As of 12:30 p.m., Crittenden County still had 365 outages and Pulaski County had just over 200 outages.

In addition, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas outage map showed that over 150 customers were without power as of Tuesday morning, with over half of the outages being located in the Woodruff, Cross and St. Francis area.  

Hinkle said most of what Entergy's damage crews were seeing was damaged distribution lines that had been pulled down from the weight of the ice.

“A half inch of ice is like adding 500 additional pounds to powerlines” Hinkle said. “That’s nearly 30 times their weight.”

She said customers could check the Entergy app and sign up for text alerts to receive estimated restore times.

“A lot of it varies based on place because some of those distribution lines are hard to get to,” Hinkle said. “And getting signed up for texts is the best because sometimes, if the power goes out, the internet does as well and cell phones are the most reliable way to get that information.”

She also said Entergy recommends customers stay home so that crews and other emergency personnel can arrive faster.

In preparation for the second wave, Hinkle said crews were on standby and they’d called in reinforcements from out of state.

“We anticipate there will be outages as this wave is supposed to bring more ice, so, once it is safe to send our crews out to restore power, we will,” Hinkle said.

Beyond staying off the roads, Hinkle said Entergy recommends avoiding any downed lines because they may still be energized.

“And try not to walk under limbs or powerlines. As this ice accumulates, it could cause the power line to bend or snap,” she said.


Due to poor road conditions in many areas of the state, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders closed state office buildings except for critical operations Tuesday, her office announced.

State employees who can telework should do so, and agencies may implement liberal leave policies for their employees who cannot telework, according to the governor’s office. State employees outside the affected areas should contact a supervisor for further instruction.

Pulaski County offices will close due at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, a release from the county said.

Waste Management said Tuesday afternoon that it would continue to pause operations in Central Arkansas on Wednesday.

The Clinton Presidential Center, including 42 bar and table and the Clinton Museum Store, and the Little Rock Zoo will be closed on Wednesday.

Benton offices will also close at 1 p.m. Tuesday and remain closed through Wednesday, according to a release from the city.

Saline County offices and the courthouse will be closed on Wednesday, Judge Matt Brumley said Tuesday afternoon.

Hot Springs city offices closed at noon Tuesday and won't open until noon Wednesday, according to a news release. 

The bi-weekly agenda meeting of the City of Hot Springs Board of Directors that was to be held Tuesday will be rescheduled for 4 p.m. on Wednesday in the City Hall Board Chambers, 133 Convention Blvd.

The city's Fire and Police Departments will remain open, as will Public Works Street Division crews and the Water and Wastewater treatment plants.

The 24-hour emergency on-call number for water and sewer problems is (501) 321-6200.

Hot Springs officials said just before noon that transportation services would continue as normal until roads become unsafe.

But Rock Region METRO service will end at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and be delayed until further notice on Wednesday, the service announced. 

DoorDash suspended all operations in Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, Conway and Searcy at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.


The school districts in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Pulaski County Special, Cabot, and Watson Chapel announced they will again utilize remote learning on Wednesday.

All after-school athletic events and extracurricular activities are canceled or rescheduled for Little Rock and PCSSD schools. Afterschool CARE, as well as administrative offices, will remain closed, the Little Rock district said in a news release.

Russellville schools will be closed on Wednesday and the day will be made up on April 7, the district announced in a news release.

Searcy School District also announced it would be closed on Wednesday.

The University of Arkansas system offices closed for the afternoon on Tuesday.

University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College will be closed Wednesday. In-person classes are cancelled, but online and hybrid courses may continue to meet at the discretion of the instructor, the school said.

Philander Smith College will hold classes virtually and staff will work remotely on Wednesday.

Arkansas State University in Jonesboro has canceled all on-campus classes on Wednesday, and academic and business offices will remain closed.

The student union will be open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and the dining hall will be open for brunch hours

Arkansas Tech University campuses in Russellville and Ozark, as well as Arkansas Tech Career Center, will be closed on Wednesday. All classes will pivot to online learning, and essential services will be available virtually, the school system said.

The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana said it will close at 4 p.m. Tuesday. All classes scheduled for tonight on both campuses are dismissed.

Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia said it will cancel classes and close campus offices beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the closure would continue through Wednesday.

EARLIER: State braces for icy weather, possibility of power outages

After part of the state spent Monday dealing with ice and freezing rain and most of the rest of the state spent the day preparing for it, Arkansas is expecting the second wave of a major winter storm that could bring significant icing and power outages to the state today.

At 6 p.m. Monday, the central section of the state from Oklahoma to Tennessee was covered with an ice storm warning as weather officials warned that nearly a half-inch of ice could affect the region before the system begins to exit the state late tonight or early Wednesday morning. The northern and southern sections of the state are under winter weather advisories through at least Wednesday morning as the system moves through the state. The only counties spared from winter weather warnings or advisories are Ashley and Chicot counties.

Dylan Cooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock, said winter weather was affecting just about the entire state, but the main area of concern was a large swath of the state stretching from Fort Smith and Mena to near Blytheville in the northeast to Helena-West Helena in the east-central part of the state.

Cooper said a first round of freezing rain and sleet that was coming through the state on Monday should taper off by daybreak today and is expected to leave between a tenth and two-tenths of an inch of ice in its wake in and around Little Rock.

"The roads themselves, it's hard to say what condition they'll be in," he said. "Ground temperatures will still be in the 40s so that should keep the ground level roads from icing too much, at least through this morning. But bridges and overpasses don't have that buffer, nothing to keep them warm so we do have a concern about bridges and overpasses in the morning. Travel is probably not going to be super-advisable for the morning."

Cooper said a lull in the precipitation is expected from around daybreak until mid-to-late-morning, at which time he said a second -- and more significant -- round of precipitation is expected to begin in the form of freezing rain.

"It'll be 10 0r 11, maybe towards noon, when that next round is expected to move through the area," he said. "That is probably going to produce the more significant ice accumulation."

Cooper said the area of major concern ranges from Helena-West Helena, over to Stuttgart to Pine Bluff and back toward Hot Springs to the Mena area along the southern boundary. He said the northern boundary runs along a line from Logan County northeast to Batesville and over to Jonesboro and into Mississippi County.

"That's where we're going to get that quarter-inch to half-inch and above ice totals," he said. "Thankfully, for folks in north Arkansas who got hammered with that last winter storm, the good news for them is they have the sleet [today] -- we call it crunchy rain -- that's going to be moving out this evening and while they'll still have some travel issues and maybe some sporadic power outages, the bulk of the impact will be further south through Central Arkansas."

Of that area defined by the ice storm warning, Cooper said, "Little Rock is sitting right in the center of that."

Temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday, he said, should rise into the mid-30s on Wednesday and are forecast to dip back down into the upper 20s to lower 30s overnight into Thursday, before rebounding as the weekend approaches.

While today figures to be a big weather challenge, Monday was no walk in the park. Ice patches were reported on most of the main highways and roads in northern and western Arkansas, according to the website

"Additionally, portions of northern Arkansas could see up to an inch of sleet/snow accumulation," a briefing from the weather service said.

Police cited icy roads in a fatal wreck Monday morning as sleet and freezing rain 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 on Monday morning. The driver, who was identified in an Arkansas State Police report as James Edward Sawyer, 60, of Rogers, was killed, Jenkins said. The crash was weather-related, she said.

The city of Little Rock opened an emergency shelter at the Dunbar Community Center on Monday night. The shelter at the center, 1001 W. 16th St., will be operated by The Van. According to a news release, the city's emergency management staff will continue to monitor the extreme weather conditions, and the shelter will remain open as needed.

The Van will conduct coordinated pickups across the area on Monday, in partnership with Park Hill Christian Church. For transportation to the emergency shelter, call (501) 955-3444.


The Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts have said they plan to use alternate methods of instruction, or remote learning, for classes today.

Events, activities and games scheduled after school on Monday and today have been canceled or postponed due to inclement weather, officials said.

All three Central Arkansas school districts said officials will continue to monitor the weather before making a decision about how students will be taught on Wednesday

The Little Rock district in a news release encouraged students and teachers to take their electronic devices home on Monday, in order to complete their work there.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus has announced it will be closed today.

Cabot Public Schools announced that they will be closed today, and students will shift to virtual learning.


Entergy began preparing for the wintry weather by staging crews, equipment and supplies in areas of the state likely to be the hardest hit, a news release said Monday.

Officials said scouts, vegetation crews, linemen and others will be on hand to assist in the event of power outages.

"Additional resources from other mutual assistance energy companies have also been requested," the release said.

According to the release, a half-inch of ice can increase the weight of a tree limb as much as 30 times, causing even smaller limbs to bend or snap, falling onto power lines and causing an outage.

Ice on power lines can also create extra weight, causing them to fall or stretch, which can lead to power interruptions, officials said.

Road conditions are another concern.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders activated Arkansas National Guard winter weather support teams, the National Guard announced Monday. The governor also announced Monday evening that she is releasing $250,000 from the Governor's Disaster and Response Fund for the state Division of Emergency Management to use as needed.

"Aside from icy roads, one of our biggest concerns with ice is its accumulation on trees and power lines, which can be very dangerous when positioned over a roadway," the Arkansas Department of Transportation said in a tweet Monday.

The transportation department said it has chain saw crews ready to take care of any trees and tree limbs affecting travel.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said the city's Public Works Operations Division will work 12-hour shifts until the inclement weather concludes, and there is an ample supply of sand and salt mixture for city streets.

The Pulaski County Road and Bridge department put crews on standby Monday night, and trucks and equipment were ready to mobilize for the elevated surfaces, according to a department news release. For today, the department will have shift assignments for the essential personnel, all equipment ready for possible plowing/sanding and clearing of debris such as trees.


The Little Rock Zoo announced that it will be closed today and possibly Wednesday for the safety of the animals, as well as staff and patrons.

The Clinton Presidential Center, including the Clinton Museum Store, will be closed today due to inclement weather, the center announced.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, as well as Mike Jones and Tom Sissom of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Print Headline: State braces for icy weather, possibility of power outages


Sponsor Content