Winter storm
Residents urged to conserve power to prevent outages

Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Here’s one of several cars to slide into a tree on Mountain Street in Eureka Springs this past weekend. Icy road conditions make steep streets like this nearly impossible to traverse.
Photo courtesy of David Blankenship

With snow continuing to fall throughout Carroll County, electric companies are encouraging citizens to conserve their power. That’s the best way to prevent outages, said SWEPCO representative Carey Sullivan.

Sullivan said SWEPCO is asking people to reduce their use of electricity so the power grid isn’t overwhelmed. In the meantime, Sullivan said, SWEPCO has had controlled outages in the states affected by the winter storm, including Arkansas and Texas. Sullivan said the controlled outages should not affect critical public health and public safety facilities.

“It’s an emergency procedure to reduce the load on the electrical system,” Sullivan said. “Customers shouldn’t be without service for more than a few hours.”

Brandi Hinkle, a representative for Entergy, issued a press release on Sunday asking people to reduce their use of electricity. In an email, Hinkle writes that people can take the steps to prevent outages from usage, “which is more of a concern right now than storm damages.”

“We ask that people conserve energy by holding off using large appliances — washers, dryers, dishwasher — unless absolutely necessary and setting the thermostat to 68 degrees or lower,” Hinkle writes. “If you do lose power, unplug those major appliances or turn them off at the breaker. Power them up one by one after your electricity returns.”

In a press release issued on Sunday, Carroll Electric encourages its consumers to avoid “unnecessary electricity consumption” until Tuesday at the earliest. The release says consumers can adjust thermostats to lower settings and limit the use of appliances, electric water heaters, clothes dryers and dishwashers to conserve energy.

“If reductions are not sufficient to permit continuity of service, it may be necessary to begin temporary interruptions of electric service in specific areas across the state, including the service area of Carroll Electric,” the release says.

‘Extreme cold’

A blue jay finds a place to rest that’s not covered in snow Monday morning near Berryville. Several inches of snow fell across Carroll County beginning Sunday night and throughout Monday.
David Bell / Carroll County News

According to Joe Sellers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa, Holiday Island received 5.4 inches of snow as of 7 a.m. Monday morning. Sellers said that’s the only report he had for Carroll County.

“So it’s likely that total has gone up,” Sellers said.

The “extreme cold” that comes with the accumulation is a big concern in Holiday Island, said district manager Lawrence Blood. Blood said Holiday Island officials are “trying to do the best we can” even with the cold hampering their plans.

“We’ll get snow blowing up on the windshields and it’s freezing as soon as it’s on there, so we have to take things pretty slow,” Blood said.

Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney agreed, saying it’s hard to keep the roads plowed because of the freezing temperatures.

“With all that cold, it’s really packing down hard so it’s going to be a while until everything is clear,” McKinney said.

Eureka Springs fire chief Nick Samac said his crews responded to a structure fire Sunday night, battling the blaze in the freezing cold.

“It is awful in this kind of weather,” Samac said. “Even though you’re near a structure fire, it’s still bitter cold and it’s extremely trying on the fire pumps and water hoses in this kind of temperature. They freeze quickly.”

Eureka Springs police chief Brian Young said the city hasn’t really had any accidents since the ice began to fall last week.

“There’s been a few people go off the road, but it’s not terrible primarily because most everyone is staying at home,” Young said. “With all this snow, we’ve been responding to calls and the worst part that we’re dealing with is the power outage.”

Blood said there have been few accidents in Holiday Island because people are staying home.

“Everybody is doing exactly what they should be doing,” Blood said. “I think I’ve only seen three vehicles on the road today.”

School closings

The Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest school districts all moved to virtual learning on Monday, and superintendents are predicting there will be more virtual learning days as the week goes on. Eureka Springs superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the district will keep going with virtual learning until in-person class can resume.

“We know we’re behind as every school in the state is, but we’re just going to have to roll up our sleeves when we get a chance to get back in there,” Pruitt said. “Hopefully, everyone will be well and rested.”

Pruitt said that buses likely won’t run until Thursday, saying it could be much later if the winter storm continues throughout the week.

“I’m hoping by Thursday we’ll get a break in here, but it’s hard to wave that magic wand and make that decision right now,” Pruitt said. “We can’t get buses back out until the roads melt.”

Berryville superintendent Owen Powell said he expects to have a few more virtual learning days, too.

“Just looking at the accumulation we have right now and what they’re forecasting, it doesn’t look good for this week,” Powell said. “We’ll make a call on it daily, but the forecast doesn’t look good. The snow’s coming down pretty hard.”

Green Forest superintendent Matt Summers agreed.

“It’s still snowing hard and another storm is scheduled to come Wednesday or Thursday, so I’m not seeing us getting much done this week,” Summers said. “It’s all going to be virtual and blended learning.”

Pruitt said the district understands that power outages could happen, preventing students from doing their virtual work.

“If our students and parents can’t get online, we’re going to be understanding of that,” Pruitt said. “The power was out this morning, so our servers and everything like that was out. Our tech guys had to get in there and get that turned on.”

Summers and Powell said they haven’t heard of any power outages in the eastern side of the county.

“I haven’t heard any reports of power outages, but I’m sure it’s possible,” Powell said. “I’m sure we have some of our people lose power and we’ll be very flexible with those students that have power outages and things like that. We’ll definitely give some grace there.”

Pruitt said safety is the most important thing.

“I want our folks to know we care about them and we’re understanding,” Pruitt said. “Stay safe and warm.”

Summers agreed.

“I hope everyone can stay warm and dry, and we’ll see you when we see you,” Summers said.

Be prepared

As the storm continues, McKinney said, people should take safety precautions such as leaving their faucets dripping.

“We’ve had some reports of people’s pipes freezing,” McKinney said.

Samac said people should be aware of accidents that can happen at home because of the winter weather. He said emergency responders have helped people that have fallen on ice in their driveway. Another big concern, Samac said, is a house fire. Samac said house fires are more common when people turn to alternate heating sources.

“Be prepared, and if you watch the weather and know something’s coming, plan for it. Dress accordingly if you have to be out,” Samac said. “When it’s like this, nobody should be out.”

McKinney agreed.

“A lot of people don’t realize how fast you can get frostbite or have some reaction to the cold,” McKinney said.

Samac emphasized how important it is to have an alternate heating source and a good stock of groceries and any prescriptions you need.

“Have secondary plans of places you can stay,” Samac said. “Be cautious. Be careful.”

Blood encouraged people to have fully charged batteries in their flashlights.

“It’s definitely time to prepare now, rather than when the lights go out,” Blood said.

Another important safety precaution, Young said, is keeping cell phones charged at all times.

“Make sure all your stuff is charged up in the event of a power outage,” Young said. “And if the power does go out, the big thing is don’t panic. If it’s going to be an emergency situation, don’t hesitate to call us.”

Local shelters

Young said Eureka Springs police officers are taking those who need shelter to the First United Methodist Church of Eureka Springs, which is set up to feed and house those in need. Samac said the Eureka Springs Community Center is another area offering shelter in Eureka Springs.

In Holiday Island, Blood said, shelters will be available at the Holiday Island Clubhouse, the Holiday Island Presbyterian Church and Grace Lutheran Church.

“We haven’t had any reports of power outages, but we’ve put together storm shelters for people if we do lose power,” Blood said. “We’ve got some warm places for people to go.”

Berryville doesn’t have a shelter open yet, McKinney said, but the community center is always available in an emergency.

“As long as you’re safe, stay home,” McKinney said. “The more people that get out and run around, the more chances you’ll have for accidents. Unless it’s a necessity, we encourage people to stay home.”

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