Thursday, February 19, 2015

TOP STORY >> Winter storm is behind us

Leader staff writer

Brian Cagle with Ivy Hall Wrecker Service in Jacksonville said, despite nearly an inch of sleet Monday, business was pretty slow. “It was a holiday and, with the schools closed to begin with, most people just stayed in.”

Sherwood police Sgt. Berny Russell said, “Knock on wood, it’s been very quiet. People had the good sense to stay at home.”

The winter storm blew in late Sunday, and the National Weather Service had been following it and warning residents for days. But what the NWS wasn’t sure about was whether the area would get rain, ice, sleet, freezing rain or snow. It got everything but the snow Sunday night, leaving 0.8 of an inch of sleet on the ground in most places around Little Rock Air Force Base.

Brad Hutslar with Cabot Wrecker echoed what Cagle had to say. “It’s been no busier than normal. We did respond Monday to two weather-related accidents and pulled about five vehicles out of ditches. But most people just stayed at home.”

Another dusting hit the area late Tuesday night, coating the area with less than a half-inch of snow.

Another possible wintry mix is set to hit the area late Friday as high temperatures all week are predicted to stay below 40 degrees.

Jacksonville Public Works Director Jimmy Oakley said city road crews started working the streets about 11 p.m. Sunday. “We split our crews and worked 12-hour shifts,” he said.
Oakley added that it was an opportunity for the city to use two new spreaders and its very first snowplow.

But “with it being mostly sleet that was packed down, the plow didn’t clear off as much as we would have liked,” he said. “It really helped that drivers stayed home.”

Sherwood Fire Chief David Teague said the department responded to one weather-related wreck around 9 or 10 p.m. Monday. A car spun out and hit the wall on Hwy. 67/167 near the Wildwood Avenue exit. Minor injuries were reported.

He said firefighters also helped two people who fell on the ice Tuesday. Both were taken to the hospital for their injuries, which included at least one broken arm.

Teague said the ice slowed fire trucks down to 25 mph, but he told the staff to take their time because rushing could mean going into a ditch and not arriving at the scene of an incident. “We want to make sure we get there,” the chief noted.

He also said many firefighters working the Monday shift came into work early on Sunday evening to avoid the expected ice storm. “We do that a lot,” Teague added.

Cabot Fire Capt. Dwayne Boswell said the department responded to a few sledding accidents in which kids hit their heads.

But he didn’t think there were any serious injuries reported. Boswell wasn’t sure, but he didn’t think any of the kids needed to go to the hospital.

A vehicle rolled over on West Main Street in front of Splash Car Wash on Monday evening, he said, but no one was seriously injured.

Several Cabot firefighters also spent Sunday night at their stations instead of braving the icy roads that had been predicted.

Jacksonville Fire Battalion Chief Eddie Hill said the holiday helped keep accidents and ambulance calls down. “We did have some runs because of falls, but, overall, it wasn’t that busy,” he said.

Police Chief Kenny Boyd said police responded to three minor accidents caused by the weather. “There were no injuries,” the chief said, adding that the department also assisted State Police with a few accidents on Hwy. 67/167.

Boyd also said that a town-hall meeting set for Tuesday night was canceled. “Some neighborhood roads are still icy, so we’ll reset it for another day,” he explained.

Cabot canceled its garbage pickup for Monday and Tuesday. The civil and small claims court held sessions Tuesday afternoon, but the judge extended leniency to those who could not attend because of road conditions.

Cabot Public Works Director Brian Boroughs said there were no major problems with the city’s streets. “We were very fortunate, and the sun Tuesday helped us a lot,” he said.

The Cabot Parks and Recreation Commission moved up its Tuesday night meeting to 4 p.m. so no one would get stuck in the bad weather.

Soldiers and airmen from the Guard’s 87th Troop Command in North Little Rock, the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 142nd Field Artillery and the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing from Little Rock Air Force Base deployed across the state to assist state troopers in conducting traffic control, to transport troopers to patrol the major highways and in reaching accident locations and to assist motorists as necessary.

In all, 20 military teams were dispatched early Sunday afternoon.

At the peak of the operations Monday, the Arkansas National Guard had 18 missions working and 78 soldiers and airmen on active duty. As the weather situation improved, some Guard teams were released. But, as of Monday, the Guard still had 10 ongoing missions with 45 of its members deployed.

The storm caused schools to cancel classes and activities Monday and Tuesday.

For the Pulaski County Special School District, that means just Tuesday will have to be made up at the end of the year. Students were already scheduled to be off Monday, but teachers were supposed to report for staff development.

One principal said those hours most likely will be made up in segments after the school day between now and the end of the year.

Cabot had Monday listed as a snow make up day, but, since it had not lost any days to bad weather, it became a school holiday. The district will have to make up just one day.

Beebe was set to have school Monday, so it will most likely have to make up two days between now and the end of the year. Also, parent-teacher conferences that were set for Tuesday were rescheduled for Thursday.

Icy rain is forecast to hit the area Friday morning, with rain continuing through the weekend.

The first day the area is expected to see 50 degrees, which is still about five degrees under the average, will be next Tuesday, according to NWS.

(Leader staff writer Sarah Campbell contributed to this article.)