The white snow that blanketed half of Arkansas on Tuesday could become black ice on roads today as temperatures remain below freezing in most of the state until Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said motorists could wake up this morning to patches of invisible ice, called black ice because it's clear and the pavement is visible underneath.
A Tuesday morning storm dumped snow on half of Arkansas -- basically southeast of a diagonal line from Texarkana to Blytheville with a maximum of 6 inches of accumulation in Camden and Palestine, which are 180 miles apart.
There was some melting under sunny afternoon skies Tuesday, but puddles would refreeze after dark, Straessle said.
"Any water out there is going to refreeze, so we're really concerned about black ice," he said.
Straessle encouraged motorists to check the idrivearkansas.com website before heading out today.
At least 40 school districts by 7 p.m. Tuesday had canceled today's classes. Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Arkansas Northeastern College in Blytheville and College of the Ouachitas in Malvern also had canceled classes by that time.
Transportation Department employees would work through the night to continue clearing highways in south Arkansas, Straessle said.
"A snow event is not a big deal for us, as long as it stays dry before it snows," he said. "It's easier for us to deal with snow than any other type of winter precipitation."
Straessle said workers were able to pretreat highways with salt brine because no rain had fallen before the snow arrived. In south Arkansas, workers on Tuesday were spreading rock salt treated with beet juice on snow-covered highways to turn the snow into slush, which makes it easier to remove.
Michael Brown, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, said most of the state will remain below freezing today.
"We're really not going to thaw out until Thursday," he said.
Elsewhere around the state, Sheridan and Redfield each got 5 inches of snow, Blytheville and England got 4 inches, Fordyce and Lonoke got 3.5 inches, and Little Rock got 1 inch.
Multiday accumulated snow totals had Omaha in Boone County at the top with 8.5 inches and Baxter County second with 6.8 inches. It began snowing in some parts of north Arkansas on Sunday.
Brown said low temperatures in Arkansas on Tuesday night would range from about zero in the north to 10 degrees in the south. Little wind was in the forecast, he said, so wind chill factors wouldn't make it feel much colder Tuesday night.
By Saturday, the high temperatures will be in the 60s for most of Arkansas, Brown said.
The snow early Tuesday caused three wrecks involving tractor-trailers on a slick portion of Interstate 40 near Lonoke, said Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police.
He said the state police had received no reports of any fatalities in the state.
"There does seem to be quite a bit of refreezing that has begun to occur," Sadler said at about 5 p.m. Tuesday. "The trick was to get the moisture to evaporate today as much as possible."
Sadler said troopers would keep an eye out Tuesday night and early today for vehicles that might have skated off state highways.
The Arkansas National Guard had troops in south and east Arkansas looking for stranded motorists Tuesday, said Maj. Will Phillips, the public information officer. He said they found a couple of abandoned cars that had slid off roads, but the drivers apparently had walked to safety.
Larry Atkinson, the county judge of Columbia County, said drivers in southwest Arkansas were trying to navigate the snow Tuesday. Magnolia, the county seat, got 2.7 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
"There are multiple wrecks all over this county, county roads and state highways," he said.
Atkinson said the icy spots were "mostly in the shadows."
"About every five years, we get 3 or 4 inches of snow," he said.
Mike Loftin, the county judge of Union County, said things went smoothly there. El Dorado, the county seat, got 1.8 inches of snow.
"Everything went pretty well," Loftin said in an email Tuesday. "Only a couple wrecks early and by noon most all county and state roads were in good shape, as well as streets in El Dorado."
Dan Noble, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said no emergencies were reported to the department as a result of this week's weather.
The Little Rock Compassion Center had 202 people stay in its homeless shelters Monday night, pastor William Holloway said. He said a similar number would probably spend Tuesday night there.
The center has separate shelters for men and women. The shelters have 200 total beds, and 100 mats can be put on the floor to accommodate as many as 300 people, he said.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Hot Springs opened a warming shelter Monday that will remain open until Thursday. The Rev. C.B. Baker said 29 people slept Monday night at the shelter set up in the parish hall and about 60 people were there for dinner.
"We're expecting another 10 or 12 people above that to sleep here tonight," he said Tuesday. "We don't make them leave. They can stay here all day."
Hot Springs only got an inch of snow, but the low Tuesday night was forecast to be about 7 degrees.
Chris Tafner and his son John Carter Tafner, 9, sled down a hill Tuesday morning at the Clinton Presidential Park in Little Rock.
A snowboarder precariously makes her way down a hill on the War Memorial Golf Course in Little Rock on Tuesday morning. Bitter cold and snow brought much of central Arkansas to a standstill Tuesday.
Trucks back up on Interstate 40 for several miles Tuesday morning after snow and ice caused an accident on I-40 near Kerr Road in Lonoke County, blocking both westbound lanes for several hours. Half the state was blanketed in snow overnight, and, with bitter cold settled in, icy roads will remain a problem, officials said.
Eddy Silcott, a maintenance worker at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, stokes the wood-burning stove Tuesday heating the park’s maintenance shop on War Eagle Road in eastern Benton County near Rogers. Wood from dead trees in the park fuels the stove. The fire was welcome Tuesday morning as temperatures hovered around zero degrees in Northwest Arkansas.
Tammy Sue Stufflebeam Royce organizes her belongings Tuesday on the floor at the Day Warming Center at the Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas in Fayetteville. The Salvation Army has also opened its Cold Weather Shelter for overnight stays in Fayetteville and Bentonville. The two shelters housed a combined 120 people Monday night.
Robert Young and his wife, Tee Tee, who is pregnant, play a video game Tuesday on the floor as they speak with Jennifer Brown, public relations coordinator, at the Salvation Army’s Day Warming Center in Fayetteville. When temperatures drop to 34 degrees and below the Salvation Army opens centers in Fayetteville and Bentonville. The Salvation Army also opened its Cold Weather Shelter in the two cities. The two shelters housed a combined 120 people Monday night.
Metro on 01/17/2018
Print Headline: Black ice feared in snow's wake; Motorists warned morning’s commute could be slippery