February 03, 2010 Edition

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Snow piles up in Lawrence County



ROADS COVERED ~ Four-wheeler tracks made on Lawrence County Road 706, near Egypt, show the depth of snow found on most county roads.
TD Photo ~ Shantelle Prater
Vivian Heyl
Staff Writer

Freezing rain and sleet began moving into Lawrence County Thursday night and spread across the county covering roads and bridges with an inch-thick layer of ice before changing to snow on Friday morning.

The National Weather Service issued a severe winter storm warning for all of Northeast Arkansas on Wednesday with predictions of heavy snowfall and driving winds. According to the NWS conditions were right for a major snowfall with a low pressure system moving into the area bringing abundant moisture on the heals of a Canadian cold front that lowered temperatures to around freezing on Thursday evening. As the temperature continued to fall the sleet and ice changed over to snow on Friday morning with rapid accumulation.

Several parts of Lawrence County reported upward of eight inches by late Friday evening. Roads were hazardous and the cold temperatures and high winds made clearing them difficult. According to Walter McMillan of the Arkansas Highway Department the cold temperatures hampered the effectiveness of chemicals used to clear ice off roadways.

The highway department concentrated efforts on highways 63, 67 and 412 in the hope of getting traffic moving along heavily traveled routes. By Monday most of these roadways were showing signs of improvement.

In Walnut Ridge streets were hazardous by Friday morning and as heavy snowfall developed, streets became more difficult to navigate. Mayor Michelle Rogers said there had been no major problems and that the street department was continuing to clear streets as quickly as possible.

"We were all hoping it wasn't going to be a repeat of last year," she said. "The warmer weather should help get things back to normal really soon." Hoxie Mayor Donnie Roberts said that side streets are still not completely clear but that the warmer weather over the next few days should make a lot of difference.

"We've had a remarkably non-eventful weekend considering," Roberts said. "There have been a few accidents but no major damage. Thankfully most people stayed home and off the roads."

Black Rock Mayor Bud McLaughlin said the only problems have been the slick roads. "It's a lot better than last year," he said. "The highway (63) is clear and the city streets are rapidly clearing."

McLaughlin said he measured the snowfall at between eight and nine inches. All three mayors agreed that the winter storm dropped one of the deepest snows in recent history and all were grateful that there were no power outages to further complicate things.

Imboden resident Mike McLeod said he couldn't get out of his driveway for three days after the snowstorm. "This is the most snow I've seen around here in several years. The weight of the snow collapsed a building that has been on our property for at least 75 years and probably longer. It's sad to lose something that's been around that long."

There were also reports of property damage in the county due to the weight of snow on awnings and building facades.

Lawrence County Emergency Services Director Steve Jones said, "There were no outages anywhere in Lawrence County that I am aware of. Our worst problem is that the back roads are still covered in ice and snow making it difficult to travel anywhere except on the main highways."

Jones also said there was approximately 10 to 12 inches of snow from Imboden northward.

Butch Dail of Dail's Body Shop and Wrecker Services said that a stretch of Highway 63 north of Ravenden was closed on Friday from 5-8 p.m. due to snow buildup, which caused several semi-trucks to lose control.

"We had semis crossways on the road and traffic was stopped from both directions for about three hours on Friday night," Dail said. Dail said his wrecker service crews worked for 32 hours straight after the icing began on Thursday night.

Temperatures were in the 40s on Tuesday and expected to remain consistent throughout the week with a 70 percent chance of rain on Thursday and Friday which should wash away any remaining snow and ice as well as the sand and salt used on highways.

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