Very dry air in place at the onset of precipitation led to sleet falling across the area early Thursday evening as the temperature hovered at 47 degrees as of 5 p.m.
National Weather Service meteorologist Sean Clarke explained the setup.
“A lot of dry air is in place across the state right now,” Clarke said. “The spread between the temperature and the dew point [temperature at which the atmosphere becomes saturated] in Pine Bluff is 25 degrees. As the precipitation falls through that dry air it begins to evaporate and evaporation creates cooling. This turns the rain into sleet even when the surface temperature is well above freezing. That’s what is happening right now.”
Clarke said that as the atmosphere continues to moisten up the sleet will transition to rain.
“The changeover to rain should happen later on this evening,” Clarke said. “Friday will be a rainy day and Saturday should see some breaks in the clouds along with a good chance of rain.”
The NWS is forecasting snow to accumulate up to three inches with locally higher amounts across the northern two to three rows of counties in Arkansas overnight Thursday.
Any snow is expected to changeover to rain after midnight as the atmosphere begins to warm, according to the NWS.
No snow is predicted for Southeast Arkansas.