Wednesday, February 09, 2011

TOP STORY >> Weather is going to hit area travel

Leader staff writer

City officials here say they’re getting ready for the big snow.

Public Works Director Jim Oakley says Jacksonville has enough sand and salt left to make it through the weekend.

“We’ll have to order in more if we get another round of winter weather after this one,” he said Monday.

This current round of snow, which started early Wednesday and closed schools and businesses, will leave up to eight inches of snow in central Arkansas.

The area already saw nearly three inches back on Jan. 9 and two inches on Feb. 4. The area also saw trace amounts of snow Jan. 10, 11 and 20, as well as on Feb. 1, 2, 3 and 5.

“We usually don’t get snows like this,” Oakley says. “My daughter was eight or nine before we ever had enough snow on the ground for her to build a snowman.”

The National Weather Service is calling for the snow to taper off late Wednesday with maybe a few flurries early Thursday, clear and cold on Friday, but a warming trend for the weekend.

But no one at the National Weather Service will go out on a limb and say after this week’s snow, it will be done for the season.

Since Jan. 1, Oakley says his crews have dumped 40 tons of sand and salt mix and logged in 400 man-hours just on snow work.

He says the round earlier this month was hard on the equipment. “We had a motor go out and some other problems, but everything is up and ready now,” Oakley says

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said his street department restocked its supply of sand to get ready for the snow.

But so far, the total cost of this unusually bad winter has been only $990, which includes labor, equipment and sand.

“The majority of the roads through Cabot are state highways, so the state takes care of them,” Cypert said.

“It’s not a big-ticket item for us, but we are restocked and ready to go,” he added.

Brian Galloway, public-works director for Sherwood, says the city has about 1,000 tons of sand yet, and could use up to half of it on this storm. “It just depends how severe it gets,” he said Tuesday, “but we have enough to get us through.”

Galloway said the city has two sand trucks and will work round the clock if necessary sanding and clearing streets.

The snow events have played havoc with area schools. Almost every district in the area will have to extend the school year by about five days, or take away scheduled days off to make up for the lost days.

Besides the cities and schools, Entergy is also preparing for what may be the biggest snow event in almost a decade.

The forecast doesn’t include any severe ice which is a plus for the electric company.

Neal Frizzell, with First Electric Cooperative in Jacksonville, said late Tuesday that crews and equipment were standing by.

“Our first concern is any problems that we have locally and then helping neighboring cooperatives if they need it,” he said.

“If we just get mostly snow, it shouldn’t be too bad. Outages have been minimal so far this year,” Frizzell said, adding that if the snow gets too heavy or changes over to ice then there could be some downed lines.

“Right now, we are standing on go,” Frizzell added.

Brady Aldy, director of transmission and distribution for Entergy Arkansas, said, “The weather system is dynamic and poses a threat to our electric system.

“We’re leaving nothing to chance. Our crews are prepared if severe weather strikes,” he said.

Aldy said that if the weather situation were to become severe, bringing more of a wintry mix than forecast, plans are in place to restore service and bring in assistance from outside if necessary.

Entergy offers these tips for this and any ice or snowstorm:

Live wires can be deadly. Stay away from downed power lines.

Keep away from the immediate areas where crews are working. There is always the danger of moving equipment and the possibility of construction materials or limbs or overhead wires falling to the ground.

Don’t trim trees or remove debris on or near downed power lines. Only power-company crews should remove trees or limbs touching power lines.

Do not run a generator in a confined space without adequate ventilation.

Keep away from metal fences and other objects that can become energized if they come in contact with downed power lines.

Outages and potentially dangerous situations should be reported to Entergy by calling 1-800-9OUTAGE (1-800-968-8243).