Leader Blues

Sunday, January 31, 2010

TOP STORY >> Brrrrrr—this ice is not nice

Leader staff writer
By mid-morning Friday, the sanding crews in Jacksonville thought they might get out of their round-the-clock shift, but that lull in the wintry mix didn’t last long.

By noon, sleet was hitting the area with a vengeance. “We’ve been pretty lucky,” said Jacksonville Public Works director Jim Oakley, “that we’ve only had one minor accident through the afternoon.”

Sherwood police officer Joshua Adams said his department had also been pretty quiet. “We’ve had just a few one-car accidents and no major injuries,” he reported.

The same was true for Cabot. The winter storm closed schools for the day statewide, which  helped take some traffic off the roadways. Power outages were reported in many areas north of here.

Oakley praised crews for doing an outstanding job with two sand trucks and a grader. “Intersections, hills and bridges have been our priority,” Oakley said.

He said people staying off the roads resulted in fewer accidents.

Oakley said that Friday morning the streets in Jacksonville were mostly slushy, and by mid- afternoon the temperature warmed to above freezing, easing road concerns, but by early afternoon the temperature was falling again.

“It’s a lot more serious now,” a worried Oakley said late Friday.

His crews will continue to work as long as there is a need, he said. Adams said the city also had its sand truck out, but as traffic increased Friday afternoon and the sleet continued to fall, the roads were packing down and that could cause more problems.

Gov. Mike Beebe declared a state of emergency Friday morning in response to the ice and snow already in Arkansas and expected to continue accumulating throughout the day.

 The declaration carries with it up to $20,000 from the Governor’s Disaster Fund for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to supply additional support and resources if needed.

A separate declaration by Beebe suspended some federal guidelines that regulate utility trucks. This allowed utility companies to work extra hours in responding to outages and storm damage.

Officials at the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management have been in contact with county emergency officials, preparing to take appropriate actions to counter the storm. The Arkansas National Guard also has personnel and supplies ready to go for emergency response.

The storm divided the state into a snowy north, dropping up to 12 inches of snow, and an icy south, with accumulations of ice up to about a half an inch in spots.

Interstate 40 has ice, sleet, slush or snow for its entire length, from Oklahoma to Tennessee. Interstate 30 has wintry conditions in Pulaski and Saline counties.

Police are asking residents to travel only if necessary. A lot of people involved in accidents are out looking around at the effects of the weather.

Most remnants of the storm should be gone by Monday or Tuesday as temperatures for Sunday are supposed to be in the higher 30s and the mid-40s by Tuesday.

Rain chances for the week run about 20 percent each day.