Tuesday, February 02, 2010

TOP STORY >> Storm not as bad as feared

A man crosses the overpass at Kiehl Ave. in Sherwood during the storm on Friday. 

Leader staff writer

John Lewis, a Sherwood resident who is with the National Weather Service in Little Rock, said that central Arkansas got neither a snow event nor an ice event last weekend.

He said the atmospheric conditions across the northern part of the state panned out for a major snow event and some areas got as much as one foot of snow.

“They had very little sleet, ice or freezing rain up north, just snow,” Lewis explained.

Across central Arkansas, Lewis said, there were warmer atmospheric conditions that caused the snow to melt and then refreeze. “Because it was refreezing at a relatively high level, we got mostly sleet.”

But it was a different story in south-central Arkansas, particularly along a band from Hot Springs to Pine Bluff to Stuttgart; there, the refreezing occurred close to the ground.

“That caused them to get freezing rain, which caused more problems,” Lewis said. “At one time about 30,000 people were without power in the area because of the freezing rain icing up and cracking lines and trees.”

The storm, which turned out to be much milder than expected, still had city and county road crews working long hours dumping sand and chemicals on bridges, intersections and hills to try to minimize traffic accidents.

Hal Toney, the street department superintendent for Jacksonville, said his department put in 219 man-hours and dumped about 80 tons of sand and seven tons of salt on the city, starting late Thursday and going through Saturday.

In Sherwood, crews also put in about 200 man-hours. Chester Bymer, the street department supervisor, said the city spread 30 yards of sand onto the streets and bridges during the storm.

The storm left the Jacksonville Police Department still short five officers.

Police Chief Gary Sipes had gone to the Civil Service Commission in December to get permission to offer out-of-cycle testing to fill four vacancies. Shortly after the request was approved, a Jacksonville officer was fired and arrested on drug charges, leaving the department five short.

The testing was set for Saturday, but the wintry mix of weather caused the testing to be canceled.