The warm weather of recent days is about to become a distant memory as an Arctic cold front is on schedule to combine with several storm systems to create a potential icy mess starting midday Friday and lasting through the weekend.
National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist John Robinson said Wednesday evening that the Pine Bluff area can expect severe winter weather conditions over a multi-day period.
“Jefferson County is currently under a Winter Storm Watch from 6 p.m. Thursday evening through 6 p.m. Friday evening,” Robinson said. “It has not been elevated to a Winter Storm Warning yet due to some uncertainty over what is going to occur. A Winter Storm Watch means that there is the potential for significant sleet or ice accumulations. Rain will mix with and eventually change over to sleet and freezing rain late Thursday evening and especially during the day Friday.”
Robinson said the first batch of frozen precipitation should generate less than a tenth of an inch of ice, while a second round that will arrive Saturday night and continue Sunday could produce a larger amount of sleet and freezing rain over Pine Bluff and the rest of Jefferson County.
“Pine Bluff will likely be the area where the heaviest precipitation and the cold air meet from Saturday night into Sunday,” Robinson said. “For Pine Bluff, Friday’s high of 36 will occur in the morning and drop into the upper 20s by late Friday afternoon. The low Friday night is expected to be 20 in Pine Bluff while the Saturday high will be 30 with a low of 28 and the Sunday high will be 33.”
Robinson said that the Pine Bluff forecast is calling for lows by Tuesday night to be in the teens.
Entergy Arkansas is mobilizing for a major winter storm to affect the state according to spokeswoman Sally Graham, who advised that customers download the Entergy app that is compatible with both iPhone and Android devices.
“We are mobilizing for a significant ice storm with up to 5/8 of an inch of ice accumulation as well as wet snow and possible wind gusts of 25 mph that could affect all or parts of Entergy Arkansas service territory from Thursday into Sunday,” Graham said Wednesday. “We are expecting two waves of precipitation to come through with temperatures not getting above freezing before the second storm comes in.”
Graham said Entergy Arkansas has requested 6,700 workers from other utilities in the region to come to Arkansas to assist in the power restoration efforts after the storms have passed.
“We have asked that they begin arriving in waves over the next few days with the first of them arriving tonight,” Graham said. “In total that means 8,000 workers, including our Entergy Arkansas employees, engaged in this effort. We expect outages to be widespread and extended with restoration to all customers expected to take five to seven days to complete. The majority of the outages will be restored much sooner, however.”
Graham said residents are urged to prepare for the possibility of being without power for an extended period of time.
“We urge them to gather items for emergency preparedness kits, including flashlights, a battery-powered radio with fresh batteries, fresh batteries, canned food, a non-electric can opener, a supply of fresh water for several days and a first-aid kit,” Graham said. “Customers can monitor outages at our website and through Facebook and Twitter.”
The Entergy Arkansas outage website can be found at stormcenter.entergy.com.
Danny Straessle is the assistant public information officer with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.
“In the Pine Bluff area our night crews will come in Friday at 8 p.m. and start working 12-hour shifts at least through Sunday,” Straessle said. “Thursday they will begin pre-treating roads and bridges with a salt-brine solution that is something new for District 2. It has been successfully tested in District 9 around Harrison for the past couple of years.”
Straessle said the material is used in a number of other states that receive snow and ice and is cheap enough to allow it to be used on all road surfaces instead of only bridges and overpasses.
“In central Arkansas around Little Rock we will use salt and sand as the temperature drops and ice develops,” Straessle said.
The Arkansas Activities Association announced Wednesday that because of the expected inclement weather all football games scheduled for Friday and Saturday will be moved forward one week to Dec. 13 and Dec. 14.
The Class 6A final game between Pine Bluff and El Dorado will now be played at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
The Class 4A semifinal game between Dollarway and Booneville will now be played at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; and the Class 4A semifinal game between Warren and Valley View will be played at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 in Warren.