LITTLE ROCK — A late-season winter storm spread freezing rain, sleet and snow across the state Sunday night and early Monday, making travel conditions hazardous and leaving thousands of Arkansas without power.
Although light snow flurries were falling in parts of the state by mid-day, the National Weather Service said no significant additional accumulations were expected. Temperatures were expected to stay below freezing in virtually all of the state until Tuesday, when a thaw was in the forecast for all areas except the northeastern corner of the state.
Temperatures should rise gradually through the week, the weather service said.
The Arkansas State Police responded to numerous crashes and stranded motorists Sunday and Monday. Spokesman Bill Sadler said one fatal accident was reported in Benton County on Sunday, but he did not immediately know whether it was weather-related.
"Travel is still dicey at best in most parts of the state, Sadler said.
The National Guard and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management were standing by to assist the state police. By mid-day Monday they had assisted troopers in reaching a location near Forrest City, ADEM spokeswoman Kathy Wright said.
Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department spokesman David Nilles said crews had been working non-stop since Sunday to prepare for and respond to the severe weather. He said workers pre-treated bridges and overpasses to combat ice, although "unfortunately it started out as heavy rain, which makes it difficult to pre-treat because it washes off."
AHTD crews were out across the state Monday with snow plows and trucks spreading sand and a chemical de-icing mix, Nilles said.
"The only areas that haven’t been affected are in the southwest corner and the southeast corner," he said. "Pretty much everything else has some ice on it, either completely covered or dealing with patchy places."
Nilles also noted Monday that "anything that melts today will probably re-freeze tonight, making tomorrow morning a challenge too."
Gov. Mike Beebe responded to the hazardous travel conditions by invoking the state’s inclement weather policy. Only state employees who are considered essential personnel were told to report to work Monday in Little Rock.
Entergy Arkansas reported on its website that by 6 a.m. Monday about 27,000 of its customers had lost power. The company said it had assembled 2,600 workers to respond to the outages and expected power to be restored to most customers by late Tuesday.
Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas reported that about 8,000 of its customers were without power by late Monday morning and said crews were working to restore service as quickly as possible.