By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
Old Man Winter’s icy breath exhaled hard on Spring River Country Tues. Jan. 24, dropping as much as 10 inches of very wet snow on the area. The snow began falling much earlier than predicted and by 6p.m., most of the area had al-ready witnessed huge cottonlike snowflakes coming down in mass. Within two hours roads became treacherous despite the above freezing temperatures. By around 11 that night police, first responders, wreckers and electric companies were overwhelmed as the snow continued to fall into the early morning hours, with little hope of slowing. Semi trucks and numerous other vehicles, including a UPS delivery truck, found their way to ditches or were stranded as they attempted to slowly make their way up slick hills across the area. Highway 63 in Fulton County from Hardy to Mammoth Spring was closed down for hours Tues-day night due to the number of tractor trailer rigs stalled or jack-knifed and the hazardous driving conditions. The massive snowfall fell quickly, many times leaving drivers with little or no visibility. The heavy, wet snow left branches and trees across numerous county roads in Sharp and Fulton County, further slowing the power restoration process for linemen. The sagging power lines from the weight of the snow was the main cause for lines and trees being downed. The Fulton County Road Department was out Tuesday night working in any way possible to help clear tree from back roads. Power outages kept crews with both North Arkansas Electric Cooperatives (NAEC) and Entergy busy until the early morning hours of Sunday, Jan. 29.Lineman with NAEC were called out early on Tuesday night when lines began to sag and power outages became prevalent across the coverage area. At the peak outage, which occurred early Wednesday morning, over30,000 customers were left with-out power due to the storm. Downed trees in Sharp County made it even more difficult for the men to get to the areas needed to begin working torestore power.
The line-men with both electric companies worked 16hour shifts to restore the outages beginning first with areas that would restore the most customers with a single repair. On Wednesday, eight Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas crews and four Woodruff Electric Cooperative Corporation crews arrived to assist with the outages. On Thursday, over29,000 were still with-out power in the co-operative’s coverage area. Two crews arrived Thursday evening from Quachita Electric Cooperative and on Friday, nine contract crews from Mississippi and Tennessee came to aid the NAEC workers. By Friday afternoon, C&L Electric Cooperative crews aided the Mountain Home district. Two crews from Ashley-Chicot Electric Cooperative helped in the Salem district and two crews from Craig-head Electric Cooperative crews arrived to assist in the Ash Flat district’s power restoration efforts. . By Friday night all but just over 2,700 were restored. Saturday, crews with the Ash Flat District worked throughout the district on the remaining smaller outages. They also replaced two poles in Poughkeepsie and repaired some underground south of Poughkeepsie, power was fully restored early Sunday morning. Crews with NAEC were called out later in the morning for further repairs in Sharp County. Entergy Arkansas’ outage affected 34,000in their coverage area, including thousands in the Spring River area. Crews from other states, including Mississippi came in to assist Entergy linemen with power restoration. The company had over1,300 people, crews and resources engaged and working to restore outages as quickly and as safely as possible, with full restorations completed late Saturday night, many in the Cave City area. Police officers from the Sharp and Fulton County Sheriff’s Departments, Arkansas State Police and various city police departments in the counties had along night assisting motorists on highways around the area. Tues-day night. Sharp County Deputy Greg Stewart picked up a stranded couple on Highway 115near Cave City and took them to their home in Calamine after their vehicle could not make it up a hill. Officer Kelly Newcom was also out on the South end of the county assisting motorists when this news agency was out providing coverage late Tuesday night. Several other officers were also working in other parts of the county serving the public in the horrible weather. Near Cave City, several volunteers with four wheel drives were assisting stranded motorists by pulling them up hills to ease the congestion of traffic. Many times one vehicle would not make it up the hill due to the frozen roads and others would be behind them when they were forced to stop. The others were also forced to stop, creating a line of stranded vehicles and often 18 wheelers were within the traffic line. Arkansas State Police were out all evening assisting with the back-ups and directing traffic to prevent further accidents including Trooper Quinton Maag near Cave City. Arkansas Department of Transportations now plows were out at-tempting to clear high-ways in the area by 7 or8 p.m. In many places the department had pretreated the high-ways in anticipation of the predicted snowstorm. The treatment did little, if any, to pre-vent buildup on main highways as the snow quickly accumulated for hours. Snow plow operators at ArDOT worked through the night. By Wednesday morning, most of the major high-ways were cleared. The storm left with it roadsides full of stranded vehicles whose drivers were waiting for roads to be cleared to return for them. Schools were dismissed in the area and there were many children enjoying building snowmen, sledding, riding side by sides and having snowball fights. Another round of winter nastiness is being predicted for this week with some talk in the forecast of possible ice accumulations