Unseasonably cold temperatures and winter weather hit Cleburne County over the weekend as an arctic blast swept across much of the nation. Sleet, ice, and some snow could be seen in all corners of the county as precipitation fell essentially nonstop on Friday.
Most area schools closed early Thursday afternoon in anticipation of the coming storm and all of them remained closed through Tuesday as cold temperatures kept the ice on the ground and many roads were still considered unsafe for travel. Authorities were warning against any unnecessary travel Thursday evening and most of Friday as road conditions deteriorated. Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson had trucks ready to treat the roads in town days in advance and most of the major streets in town could be traveled by the end of the weekend and Monday morning. County Judge Jerry Holmes also had road crews ready and working on county roads to minimize the effects of the ice and provide for safe travel. As of Tuesday morning, most main roads in the county could be safely traveled. Road crews were still working on some of the outlying roads in the more rural areas of the county. “I want to compliment the road workers on the job they’ve done,” said Holmes. “They’ve dropped 11 tons of salt on the roads since Friday afternoon. We really appreciate the hard work these people have done.”
As early as Thursday evening, Governor Mike Beebe had already declared a state of emergency for the state of Arkansas. Entergy announced it had assembled a record number of workers prepared to deal with any possible power outages.
Most businesses that didn’t provide essential and emergency services, including The Sun-Times, were also shut down on Friday because of travel conditions. County government offices remained closed on Monday, but reopened on Tuesday morning, as did most businesses. Planned events and the Heber Springs Christmas Parade were either cancelled or rescheduled. The Heber Springs Christmas Parade will now take place on Tuesday, December 17th, at 6pm. While most businesses did close or allow their employees some leeway out of concern for safety, we did receive numerous reports of some local businesses that do not provide essential or emergency services staying open and expecting their employees to work as scheduled.
Although Cleburne County got hit with early winter weather, it dodged a bullet that hit many of the surrounding areas and states. Power outages were minimal and ice was nowhere near as damaging as possible predictions feared.
Cold temperatures are expected the rest of the week with highs reaching only in the mid to high 30s, which will cause some of the ice in shaded areas to linger.