Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TOP STORY >> Winter storm causes pileups

Leader staff writer

Two waves of wintry mix closed area schools for the second Monday and Tuesday in a row.

The first wave came through late Sunday dropping a slight but annoying amount ice, sleet and rain in central Arkansas and hardly any snow. But the snow came midday Monday, up to two inches in the area, and continued into the evening hours. The little bit of sleet, combined with the snow, gray skies and temperatures that never made it above freezing Monday made road travel dangerous in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

The wintry wave caused Cabot and Sherwood to cancel their council meetings Monday night.

Both council meetings have been reset to next Monday.

Cabot city offices closed at 1:30 p.m. Monday because of the heavy snow, and some Lonoke city departments were also forced to shut their doors.

The weather caused delays in Cabot trash pickup. Eddie Long, Cabot’s director of operations, said, “We’ll will have additional crews to catch up over the next couple of days. Please be patient.”

Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson said the department responded to a few minor accidents. The worst involved a woman who spun out on the highway and hit the cable barrier.

She appeared to be OK at the scene but was sent to the hospital to be checked for injuries, Robinson said.

The department also handled a diesel rig that blocked West Main Street. Its trailer blocked one side of the road and the cab blocked the other side, according to the chief.

Also, a few people slipped and fell on the ice and snow, he added. And some kids on sleds bumped their heads, Robinson said.

Sgt. Keith Graham of the Cabot Police Department said there were about a dozen weather-related accidents in the city this week, but no serious injuries that he knew of. He noted that the State Police responded to some accidents on Hwy. 67/167.

Bill Sadler, public information officer for the Arkansas State Police, said Tuesday that reports on weather-related accidents weren’t available yet, as troopers had fallen behind in filing them and were catching up. He also said there were no fatalities in The Leader’s coverage area.

April Kiser, public information officer for Jacksonville police, said Tuesday that the department had responded to six weather-related accidents since Sunday but no injuries were reported.

The accidents included one man who hit a light pole on Homer Adkins Drive after sliding on the ice and swerving to avoid a parked car.

In a two-vehicle accident on Loop Road, a driver changed his mind about turning left, changed lanes and struck a car he said must have been in his blind spot. The other driver told police he “had no time to stop due to the ice.”

A driver on John Harden Drive reported that the car in front of him stopped suddenly and, when he tried to do the same, he lost traction and swerved into the other lane to avoid rear-ending the stopped car. But an oncoming car struck him.

In a third two-vehicle accident, a driver said he was unable to stop in time to avoid rear-ending a car that had stopped in front of him at the intersection of West Main and Marshall Road.

Lonoke Police Lt. Randy Mauk said his city had no weather-related accidents. “I think everyone heeded the warnings and stayed off the road until the ice melted.”

Light flurries are possible Thursday, according to Jeff Hood with the National Weather Service, but after that the temperature warms and he expects just rain on Sunday.

Jacksonville Public Works Director Jimmy Oakley called the last few days tough. “It was difficult to keep up with the weather,” he said, “even though we had three crews working around the clock.”

Oakley said the city has used a lot of salt and sand over the past two weeks, but had stocked up in the fall. “We have enough for one or two more incidents, and then when things slow down we’ll order more,” Oakley said. He said the storm pushed back sanitation pickup by one day. Recycling ran Monday.

The ice and sleet has caused chunks of asphalt overlay to come up on some streets in the city and especially on Hwy. 67/167 between Redmond and Main Street.

Oakley said the city has some instant patch material that it is using on local streets.

The highway department will have to make repairs to the freeway.

Danny Straessle with the state Highway Department said crews would go out after the storms ease and assess highway damage. “If we find problems that are safety issues, we will try to do some type of temporary fix right away. But, normally, to make a repair stick it needs to be warmer and drier,” he explained. Straessle said, because of the belly plows used, some striping, raised pavement markers and some asphalt is coming up. He added that their focus is getting the ice off the highways and that sometimes damage does occur.

Sherwood reported no weather-related accidents for Sunday through Tuesday. But the county responded to one on Koko Drive in Gravel Ridge, just outside city limits.

Even though the area has seen precipitation more than half the days this month, central Arkansas is still almost an inch below the 30-year average for the month. The cold onslaught over the past two weeks has February running more than 8 degrees cooler than the average for the month.

The average high for the month is 57 degrees and the low is 39. So far, for this February, the average high is 47.1 degrees and the low is 25.5.

Monday’s high of 31 degrees was almost 20 degrees below the norm for that date, plus the 1.3 inches of snow that hit the area, according to the NWS, set a record for that date.

National Weather Service meteorologists say, as a general rule, it takes 10 inches of snow to equal one inch of precipitation. It depends on how wet the snow is. Hood said Monday’s snow was very fine and dry (hard to clump together to make snowballs) and carried very little moisture. He also said that, although sleet contains more moisture, it is counted in the snowfall totals.

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