January 28, 2009 Edition

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Freezing rain accumulated on trees, power lines and structures Monday night and Tuesday and caused multiple power outages. More ice, followed by sleet and snow, were predicted for Tuesday night and early Wednesday. Many, if not the majority of the Lawrence Countians, have been without electrical power since the storm hit.

Ice storm hits Lawrence County and North Arkansas

John Bland

The National Weather Service had issued the ice storm warnings in plenty of time, but accepting the magnitude of the storm was difficult for most to conceive until the ice storm of 2009 had arrived.

It arrived Monday night and Tuesday morning in full force. Electrical power outages in Northern Arkansas have been rampant since, as trees heavily coated with ice have downed power lines and poles. When electrical power will be restored was not determined at press deadline late Tuesday afternoon, but with more freezing precipitation on the way, no quick reprieve was expected.

The freezing rain, mixed with sleet, began during the evening on Monday after 6. It continued off and on Monday night and Tuesday, with all area schools being cancelled.

Driving conditions on Tuesday were a mix of slick in some areas and slushy in others. Sidewalks and driveways were very slick, while trees and limbs continued to bend and break under the pressure of ice.

Several roads were temporarily blocked due to downed limbs and trees. Most businesses, as well as the courthouse, were closed due to lack of power on Tuesday. The 911 Center was temporarily moved out of the courthouse and relocated at the Walnut Ridge Fire Department until power could be restored.

The National Weather Service had issued the ice storm warning for northern Arkansas beginning Monday and ending Wednesday. The area most at risk was the three northernmost rows of counties. As outages began and limbs fell, electrical companies, emergency and law enforcement crews began working at a fast pace to keep up with the damage.

Entergy has multiple outages

Entergy Arkansas crews from the southern part of the state were being asked to report to work Tuesday packed and ready to travel to the north to work on restoring power here.

Storm response planners were lining up additional resources from other Entergy operating companies, as well as other utility companies and contractors.

Entergy Arkansas customers are reminded to stay away from downed power lines. Outages should be reported by calling 1-800-9OUTAGE.

A relatively new and recently upgraded online service is "View Outages." Anyone with Internet access can go to Entergy's external Web site, click on "View Outages" and see where outages are occurring down to the street level.

Late on Tuesday, Entergy's website showed multiple outages in the Walnut Ridge-Hoxie area, Black Rock, Imboden, Portia, College City, Alicia and Clover Bend areas, as well as many other parts of Northern Arkansas.

Entergy Arkansas's online address is www. entergy-arkansas.com.

Craighead Electric reports outages

Craighead Electric Cooperative Corp. of Jonesboro reported late Tuesday afternoon that electric service to approximately 6,000 members was interrupted by ice collecting on trees and power lines.

"The weight of the ice on the power lines is snapping poles and cross arms. Currently there are approximately 65 poles broken, but this number could increase as ice continues to accumulate," stated the news release.

The outages are concentrated in Craighead, Greene and Lawrence counties. Lawrence County areas with large outages through Craighead Electric include: Walnut Ridge; Hoxie; Black Rock; Lynn; and Strawberry.

"Our crews are working to restore power in these areas as quickly and as safely as possible," said Brian Duncan, president/CEO of Craighead Electric. "Restoration could be prolonged in some areas due to more severe weather forecasted."

With the forecast of additional winter weather and potential extended power outages, Craighead Electric asks that if you or a family member is dependent on electric powered medical equipment, please take steps now to seek alternative shelter or a source of backup power.

Consumers are advised to avoid downed power lines and trees touching power lines and to stay away as the lines may still be energized. Consumers are asked to call the Craighead Electric outage number at 1-888-771-7772 to report any downed power lines or trees on power lines.

Duncan said, "Our goal is to restore power safely to the greatest number of members in the shortest time possible. We will not jeopardize the safety of the storm team or the public."

According to Duncan, primary lines serving hundreds of customers are serviced first, and then the secondary lines serving fewer members are serviced.

To report outage to Craighead Electric, call 1-888- 771-7772.

Forecast called for more ice

The National Weather Service had the following forecast during the overnight hours Tuesday: Freezing rain, possibly mixed with sleet before midnight, then snow and sleet, possibly mixed with freezing rain. Low around 21. North, northwest wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New ice accumulation of 0.3 to 0.5 of an inch possible. New snow and sleet accumulations of 1 to 3 inches possible.

The Wednesday forecast was as follows: A 20 percent chance of snow before noon. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 29. North, northwest wind 5 to 10 mph becoming south.

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