Forecasters warn of plunging Arkansas temperatures as governor declares state of emergency

A truck is stranded in the snow on the side of U.S. 65 outside Choctaw in this Jan. 25, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
A truck is stranded in the snow on the side of U.S. 65 outside Choctaw in this Jan. 25, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Following overnight storms Thursday into Friday, the National Weather Service predicted plummeting temperatures that would keep most of Arkansas below freezing well into next week and predicted chances of snow showers in parts of the state.

The winter weather prediction prompted Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders to declare a state of emergency Friday in an effort to funnel resources toward preparing for and reacting to the conditions.

Temperatures Saturday were predicted to reach the high 40s and low 50s in central and southern Arkansas, the weather service forecast showed. But lower temperatures were expected on Sunday, and they were likely to stay below freezing until Thursday afternoon, when parts of central and southern Arkansas might see temperatures reach the 40s.

Northern parts of the state were already below freezing Friday, with snowfall in Northwest Arkansas.

In Central Arkansas, the weather service forecast called for a 60% chance of precipitation starting Sunday evening, when the low in Little Rock is expected to be 16 degrees, and snow showers continuing Monday with similar temperatures.

Even parts of southern Arkansas had precipitation chances as high as 60% Sunday and Monday.

Unmelted snowpack will keep temperatures frigid for at least the first half of next week, according to a post by the National Weather Service Little Rock on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.


The governor directed that $250,000 of the Governor’s Disaster Response and Recovery Fund be used at the discretion of the director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, A.J. Gary, to defray program and administrative costs, according to a proclamation she signed Friday.

On or about Sunday, severe winter weather is expected to occur throughout Arkansas and cause dangers, hardships and suffering throughout the state, which warrants executive action, Sanders said in an executive order.

“Adverse circumstances could be brought to bear upon citizens and public properties within the State of Arkansas as a result of the severe winter weather,” the Republican governor said in the executive order. “… Affected political subdivisions may require supplemental assistance from the state to recover from their losses.”

Sanders spokeswoman Alexa Henning said Friday in a written statement that Sanders also signed a second executive order that exempts certain commercial vehicles, such as utility trucks and trucks hauling essential items of commerce, including fuel, groceries, livestock, and others, from federal regulations restricting hours of service.

She said the Arkansas National Guard will provide National Guard Civil Support beginning Sunday and will be in state active duty status throughout the event.

“As part of the Governor’s activation of the National Guard, the Guard will assist all 12 Troops of the Arkansas State Police with winter weather operations,” Henning said. “[Arkansas State Police Director Mike] Hagar is also preparing his agency for the inclement weather, adding extra troopers to state highways and working with the Arkansas Department of Transportation, as well as the National Guard, to treat, plow, and keep roadways clear.”

Troopers will be in contact with the National Guard, the Department of Transportation, and the Division of Emergency Management to respond to events as they occur, she said. Gary will activate the State Emergency Operations Center on Sunday and continue operations until no longer necessary, allowing Division of Emergency Management staff to coordinate resources timely and effectively, she said. The division will share tips for safety with the public through traditional and social media.


At least 11,000 customers were without power in Arkansas just before 1 p.m. Friday after a storm system came through overnight, according to Entergy Arkansas.

Spokesperson Matt Ramsey said the utility expected to restore power to “a large portion of the customers” by 10 p.m. Friday.

A small portion of customers in the hardest hit areas of Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Warren, Helena, Batesville and Harrisburg may be without power until Saturday, he said.

In addition, 4,500 Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas members were without power around 2:40 p.m. Friday, which was down from 20,000 earlier Friday morning, said spokesperson Rob Roedel. Arkansas, Calhoun and Benton counties saw the highest concentration of outages, he said.

Ramsey said Entergy crews will be standing by to respond to any areas that may be damaged in storms that are expected to hit Sunday and Monday.

Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., which generates and sells electricity to the utilities that make up the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, is tracking the pattern of “significant arctic weather” that forecasters expect to move through Arkansas this weekend and early next week, according to a Friday news release.

Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. is “prepared to meet the demand [of consumers],” and its 17 member cooperatives are “on alert to efficiently and safely respond to any power outages that might occur during the upcoming weather event.”

In the release, Jonathan Oliver, chief operations officer for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., said, “While AECC has prepared for the worst weather possible, unforeseen events can always occur. We suggest that consumers monitor messages from their local electric cooperatives regarding any local weather-related outages and potential requests to safely conserve power usage.”


A 24-hour emergency shelter will be available at the East Little Rock Community Center starting Saturday evening, the city of Little Rock said in a release.

Little Rock-based nonprofit The Van will operate the shelter and provide transportation for individuals in need, the release said. To request transportation, call (501) 955-3444.

Little Rock Animal Services, in the release, encouraged pet owners to move outdoor pets indoors during periods of extreme cold, or — if that is not possible — to make sure they have dry, warm bedding inside a waterproof shelter.


The storm that moved through the state late Thursday and into Friday morning damaged at least one home, and downed several trees in Drew, Ashley, and Chicot counties in southeast Arkansas, which saw strong winds, according to National Weather Service’s preliminary reports.

There were isolated reports of downed trees in the Holly Grove area of Monroe County as well. Wind speed data from the weather service was not yet available Friday afternoon.

This story has been updated. It was originally published at 7:08 p.m. under the headline "Sanders declares state of emergency in Arkansas in anticipation of winter storm."

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