LITTLE ROCK — Sleet and ice covered most of Arkansas Friday as a winter storm moved across the state, causing thousands of power outages and wrecks.
By mid-day, Entergy Arkansas was reporting about 11,000 power outages, of which about 6,000 were in Russellville and Pope County.
Entergy spokeswoman Julie Munsell said outages also were reported in Craighead and Mississippi counties in northeastern Arkansas.
The state Highway and Transportation Department was reporting icy conditions on all major roadways north of a line from Texarkana to Hot Springs, Pine Bluff and West Memphis.
“Stay at home if you don’t have to get out,” said Highway Department spokesman Danny Straessel, adding that Interstate 540 north of Alma in the western part of the state was particularly bad.
Friday morning, a large truck clipped a power line that had sagged from all the ice at U.S. 71 and Arkansas 10 in Greenwood in western Arkansas, Straessel said, adding the area was blocked with traffic until the power line and truck could be removed.
More than 1,000 Highway Department employees were working across the state to make sure the roadways were clear, he said, adding that employees were also helping utility trucks clear debris off roadways so their crews could restore power.
“We’ve had trees continually fall across the roadway, so we’ve had to crank up the chainsaws a couple of times,” he said. “We have been working in concert with utility companies across the state to help clear the roads to get where they need to go.”
Along with cars sliding off roadways across the state, the ice and sleet forced the cancellation of a number of flights out of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, as well as several flights out of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill and the Fort Smith Regional Airport.
Temperatures were expected to drop into the teens or single digits by Saturday morning.
Munsell said the worst of the ice and sleet was over in the western part of the state by early afternoon Friday, “but the lingering effects of the freeze as well as any accumulation now begins to put pressure on the (power) lines and equipment.”
The temperature on Saturday is not expected to rise above freezing over most of the state and there is a slight chance of freezing rain or snow as another arctic front moves across the state, according to the National Weather Service. The high temperature on Sunday is expected to be only in the low 30s, with a 70 percent chance of freezing rain.