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Winter storm hits Carroll County: Ice, snow cause accident, closures

Thursday, December 5, 2013 ~ Updated 7:49 PM

(Photo)
Kristal Kuykendall / Carroll County News

As nightfall arrived Thursday night, sleet changed over to snow in Eureka Springs.

CARROLL COUNTY -- What was originally planned to be a winter wonderland due to a variety of Christmas-themed activities has turned into a landscape of ice and snow.

Thursday morning, traffic shuffled and moved people from work and grocery stores, where they finished last-minute preparations for the winter weather encroaching on the county. But as the day went on, the hustle and bustle came to a halt with anticipation of an arctic habitat.

Freezing rain pummeled the rolling hills and valleys of Carroll County, forming patches of ice at the bases of evergreens at rural homesteads as well as at the sidewalks and fountains of once busy town squares.

As of Thursday afternoon, only one accident has been reported.

James McNair of Osage was traveling west in his 2004 GMC truck on U.S. Highway 412 near Arkansas Highway 103 around 9 a.m. on Thursday when the vehicle hit a patch of ice, spun the other direction, slid down an embankment and rolled on its side.

McNair was able to walk away from the vehicle uninjured. The Arkansas State Police, Carroll County Sheriff's Office and EMTs responded to the scene.

Highway 412 was one of the hardest-hit roads on Thursday, according to Nick Samac of the Carroll County Department of Emergency Management.

"The southern part of the county seems to be getting hit the worst," Samac said Thursday afternoon.

The rest of the county seemed to be on standby mode on Thursday.

"Right now, [the roads] are pretty safe to travel on," said County Judge Sam Barr. "We got everything chained up and ready to go, trucks loaded down with salt, sand and chains. And we got some of the snow plows working. We have been monitoring roads since 6 a.m. and everything looks good, but we are expecting it to hit any minute."

Meanwhile, city officials have also armed themselves with the necessary tools and materials to combat the precipitation.

"We are ready as ready can be, but nothing is sticking out there as far as I know," said Kirby Murray of the Berryville Department of Public Works on Thursday afternoon. "The gravel spreaders and the snow plows are standing by. We have two trucks loaded with salt and gravel and ready to go out when we hear that things are getting slick."

Green Forest has already started taking steps to ensure safe travel within the city, too.

"The roads are still good here, but Harrison got hit harder than we did I think," said Buddy Fry of the Green Forest Department of Public Works on Thursday afternoon. "We are getting sleet but no accumulation yet to speak of. We did spread some gravel and salt in some main intersections and key places; it was not really needed -- just taking precautions. I think it will get worse tonight, so be careful."

Holiday Island officials reported they were well-prepared for the storm. Road Superintendent Kenny DeHart said that Wednesday before leaving for the day his crew pre-treated bridges and major roads with steep hills, like Holiday Island, Stateline, Leatherwood and Eagle drives, with calcium chloride to prevent or loosen ice formations.

If roads are icy or snowy, after blading the department will use a light limestone chat to create traction, he added.

He said there had been no problems as of early Thursday afternoon. A crew came to work at 5 a.m. Thursday and was scheduled to work until 5, when another crew would arrive and work until 5 Friday morning.

"We'll continue that as long as necessary," DeHart said. "It's just now starting to get a little white-looking, but there is nothing to plow yet, and we haven't seen any cars off the road.

District Manager Dennis Kelly said there were five trucks with blades ready to plow the roads. The department gives special attention to major roads, steep roads and those whose residents need to get to work or may need special medical attention.

Highway 62 from Harrison to Eureka Springs has slush, sleet and ice patches, as well as several other highways leading to and from Harrison, according to a report the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. The report also said caution should be exercised on all bridges and over passes. For the full report and a map of the state with road conditions call 800-245-1672 or visit IDriveArkansas.com.

A lot of people are taking the safe road and closing up for a couple of days or canceling scheduled events and meetings. All of the Carroll County school districts were closed on Thursday; as of press time, it was not known if area schools would be in session on Friday.

County Judge Sam Barr closed the courthouse and all county offices on Thursday and Friday, and the county's three libraries followed suit.

For a full list of closures and cancellations, see the article on page 2.

The snow is expected to continue to fall through Friday morning and into the early afternoon, with accumulation totals between 1 and 3 inches. The National Weather Service's winter storm warning for Carroll County is in effect through 6 p.m. on Friday.

Another -- lighter -- batch of sleet and snow is predicted to hit the area late Saturday into Sunday.

The NWS and representatives of SWEPCO, Carroll Electric and Entergy have indicated that power outages are likely to occur and could last for a few days.

If long-term power outages do occur, Samac said local churches and other facilities would become emergency shelters.

"We do have an emergency operations place in plan for the county," he said.

Samac added that people in need of shelter should contact their local fire departments' non-emergency numbers.

"We don't want bombard dispatch," Samac said. "We'll get people where they need to go -- our local emergency crews will bend over backwards to get people taken care of."

Holiday Island Fire Chief Jack Deaton said his department was ready to go, with Station #1 activated as a command center and staff ready to work around the clock as needed, but he hoped there wouldn't be a major issue.

"Everything looks good so far," he said Thursday morning. "I've scolded everybody enough to stay home, and I think they've listened to me."

He said everything is good as long as the power stays on, but if it doesn't, he's ready for that, too. He said he is aware of people who will need help if the electricity goes off and will get them to a shelter: "I have two shelters ready -- the Elks Lodge and the Presbyterian Church -- which are at opposite ends of the community, and working on getting two more ready. I can open the Barn if I need to, and then we also have the Lutheran Church and Dove Circle."

Stay tuned to our Facebook page and CarrollCoNews.com for the latest weather updates.

David Bell, Catherine Krummey, Kathryn Lucariello and Landon Reeves contributed to this report.



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