Fickle flakes: Snow forecast fails to materialize

Area students expecting to awake to a winter wonderland Tuesday morning were likely sorely disappointed as the forecasted 1 to 2 inches of snow failed to materialize overnight.

National Weather Service meteorologist Tabitha Clarke said Tuesday that the ultimate flaw in the forecast was determining the amount of moisture to meet an approaching disturbance.

“A cold front that went through over the weekend had the cold air in place, so we were waiting on a weak disturbance to move through the southern half of the state in the evening hours Monday,” Clarke said. “We launch weather balloons twice a day, and with each launch, the data we received showed less and less moisture. In addition, the computer models were looking drier with each run.”

Clarke said that the NWS issued a winter storm watch for the area over the weekend that was effective for the period from Monday morning to early Tuesday.

“The watch was replaced with a winter weather advisory when it became clear that snow amounts would not reach winter-storm-warning criteria,” Clarke said. “We kept the advisory in place because, while we knew it wouldn’t be as much snow, we also couldn’t rule out some snow accumulation.”

Clarke said that after the advisory was issued, initial estimates of 2 to 4 inches of snow were lowered down to 1 to 2 inches.

Clarke said that southern sections of the state were expected to see some frozen precipitation during the afternoon and evening hours of Tuesday.

“Pine Bluff is on the northern edge of areas that could very well see some light sleet and snow,” Clarke said.

NWS observations early Tuesday evening confirmed freezing rain, sleet and snow occurring in Camden, Fordyce, Monticello, El Dorado, Magnolia, Hamburg and Lake Village.

Temperatures are expected to climb into the 50s in Pine Bluff by Thursday, Clarke said.

Roadway reprieve

Jefferson County Judge Dutch King said Tuesday that his crews were on duty throughout the night Monday to treat any areas that became slick from the light freezing rain and sleet that did occur.

“We were on top of it,” King said. “When slick spots developed, our crews took care of them. We were expecting the worst because the weatherman I talked to told me that we were going to get hit. We were very much prepared for the storm even though it didn’t materialize like they thought it would.”

King praised his staff for their dedication and said that they remained ready to deal with any icy weather Tuesday night.

“We’ve got a really good group of people in the county,” King said. “The trucks are loaded and ready to go.”