By the Evening Times News Staff firstname.lastname@example.org
Most everyone likes a little snow, but ice is not so nice. Presidents Day 2015 started with a wintry mix in the early morning hours all across Crittenden County. Even before the sleet turned to ice, the Arkansas Highway Department, and local police and fire departments anticipated the storm impact working through the night. By morning broadcast media repeatedly urged people to stay at home unless an emergency warranted travel. Schools were already out for the holiday, so fortunately, for the most part traffic was very light. The West Memphis Fire Department began posting about the storm on social media Saturday evening. National Weather Service watches were repeated through their Facebook page full 32 hours before the first icy drop plopped from the sky. When the watches moved up to warnings updates were added as well as a link to current road conditions at http://www.idrivearkansas.com. Unlike in 2014, when ice and sleet crippled the local Interstate system and caused massive traffic jams, the local and state road crews were better prepared. “From 10:30 yesterday morning on, we pre-treated with brine and beet juice combination on all the interstate routes,” Regional Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department District 1 Engineer Rex Vines said back in February. “We had sprayers and plows working all night. As soon as the precipitation started we hit it with beet treated salt and bulk salt and just stayed after it. The State legislature appropriated money for salt and snow removal equipment for the highway department to become proactive after nationwide publicity over Interstate Highway standstill at the intersection of I -40 and I-55 in 2014. Those events lead to an increased focus from the AHTD on preparing the Interstates. “We actually received our last shipment of salt this week, said Vines. “So it was good timing. We are trying to keep ahead of it for a change. So far traffic is slow and steady with no major back ups. I think overall it’s been minor impact to interstate traffic.” The Marion Police Department posted a citizens alert about traffic conditions at 10 a.m. reminding drivers about the conditions. “Light rain off and on,” posted Det. Sgt. Freddy Williams. “If you do not have a reason to be out, stay home.” Kids looking for an extra day off of school got their wish, though, as schools were closed on Tuesday after frigid temperatures overnight kept the freeze on and roads remained slick in many areas, particularly rural neighborhoods and side roads. We did eventually get the snow, though, a month later, in March, with areas in the county receiving more than 8 inches of fluffy white powder. For several days, Crittenden County looked like a “winter wonderland,” with snowmen a-plenty popping up all over town. It wasn’t all fun and games for everyone, however, as northern and western parts of the state received more ice than snow, resulting in major power outages, traffic delays and even the temporary postponement of the Class 6A State Basketball tournament.