UPDATE: Nearly 1,200 without power in Garland County area

Ice coats pine trees and power lines on the western end of Marion Anderson Road Thursday morning following a mix of winter weather overnight. - Photo by Mark Gregory of The Sentinel-Record
Ice coats pine trees and power lines on the western end of Marion Anderson Road Thursday morning following a mix of winter weather overnight. - Photo by Mark Gregory of The Sentinel-Record


Around 1,189 Entergy Arkansas customers are without power in the Garland County area as the result of a mix of winter weather overnight and Thursday morning, with around 934 of those outages in the western part of the county near Royal, according to J. Paul Brewster, customer service manager.

"We have cleared the line causing the outage in this area but are experiencing some substation issues which we are working on now" in the Royal area, Brewster said in an email.

"Should no additional outages occur we feel we can get really close to getting all the existing outages restored by day's end.  We currently have two outside crews helping now with seven additional crews in route," he said.

"We ask that our customers be patient as we work to restore services and remind them to please stay away from downed facilities. Everyone's personal safety is our number one priority," Brewster said.

6 a.m. UPDATE

With the exception of election offices, city and county offices, including district court, have closed for the day, citing hazardous road conditions created by freezing rain and sleet overnight.

According to a post on 70 West Fire Rescue's Facebook page, Airport Road and all side roads are covered in slush.

"Freezing rain is covering all elevated surfaces — trees, power lines, etc. Temperatures will still be dropping so roads will worsen. Stay in and stay safe. If you must get out, prepare for slick roads," the post said.

Hot Springs Solid Waste residential routes will not run, and there will be no Intracity Transit services, the city said in a news release.

The Hot Springs fire and police departments will remain open, as well as Public Works Street Division crews and the Water and Wastewater treatment plants. The 24-hour emergency on-call number for water and sewer problems is 501-321-6200.

County Judge Darrell Mahoney has ordered Garland County offices closed today with the exception of the Garland County Election Commission and the Garland County clerk's office. "Those two offices will be open to the public," the county said in a news release.

Garland County District Court posted on its Facebook page that all court appearances for Thursday have been postponed to a later date. 

  photo  Denny McPhate, deputy city manager stands in front of the Street Division's winter service vehicles in preparation for inclement weather. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record


The Hot Springs Street Division has had a crew ready to prepare for inclement weather since 7 p.m. Wednesday after the National Weather Service placed Garland County under a winter storm warning until midnight today.

"A Winter Storm Warning means significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice are expected or occurring. Strong winds are also possible. This will make travel very hazardous or impossible," the National Weather Service said.

A Weather Service map released Wednesday at 1:20 p.m. had totals ranging from a quarter-inch to a half-inch of ice with up to an inch of snow and sleet expected from Wednesday night through tonight.

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The snow and sleet are expected to accumulate on top of the ice, making branches likely to fall. Fallen branches can cause dangerous travel conditions and power outages. However, if a tree were to fall on a power line, Entergy Arkansas must remove the power lines before the city can remove the tree.

"We can get the ice to melt at some point, but the road blocking and the damage that can do, including major power outages, is our biggest concern," Hot Springs Deputy Manager Denny McPhate told The Sentinel-Record.

McPhate said the street department will have a crew ready from 7 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. today. The ice and snow aren't expected until after midnight, but being there early will allow the crew to act quickly as soon as the weather begins.

The plan is to pour a mixture of salt, sand and beet juice over the roads. The salt is meant to melt the ice, the sand will give the roads more traction and the beet juice is meant to keep the temperature of the salt just right in order to melt the ice.

McPhate said the main concern in keeping the roads safe is timing. Putting the mixture down too soon risks the rain washing it all away. Putting it down too late risks the mixture freezing.

"We've got plenty of products to put down," McPhate said. "It's just a matter of timing it based on how the weather's acting."

Although the winter service vehicles are meant to assist in keeping the roads safe, McPhate still advised against driving on icy roads unless absolutely necessary. He said driving on ice is more dangerous than driving on snow.

"The best advice I could give would be to drive slow," McPhate said. "Don't slam on the brakes. Leave a lot of room between you and the cars around you or in front of you."

McPhate said most of the city's major facilities, including water plants and sewer plants, have backup generators ready just in case there is a power outage. However, McPhate said to make sure to be very careful with home generators that can emit carbon monoxide, which is odorless and deadly.

One thing McPhate was not concerned over: broken service lines. He said he thought it wouldn't stay cold long enough for any lines to break. According to the National Weather Service, the temperature could get up to 42 degrees on Saturday.

"Typically it takes below freezing or well below freezing, like in the teens, over about a two-and-a-half to three-day time frame for the ground to get that cold," McPhate said. "I don't think this forecast is going to get there."

Road closes; ceremony canceled

• Due to the forecast of inclement weather and the potential for icy road conditions, West Mountain Drive closed at 10 p.m. on Wednesday and will remain closed until park staff can evaluate the road conditions this morning, Hot Springs National Park posted on its Facebook page earlier in the day.

"West Mountain Drive and Hot Springs Mountain Drive will reopen once weather and travel conditions allow. Please exercise caution while the winter weather advisory is in effect. Mountain roads at higher elevation tend to become icier and colder than the roads below. Feel free to call the park for more information, 501-620-6715," the post said.

• A ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Friday to mark the completion of Majestic Park has been canceled.

"We will hold the ceremony later," Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said Wednesday morning in a news release. "The Weather Service is predicting a severe ice storm for Central Arkansas on Thursday, and temperatures are expected to remain below freezing Friday. We don't want to put anyone in danger on iced-over streets and roads."

  photo  McPhate describes how the trucks distribute the salt, sand and beet juice. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

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