White County and the rest of Arkansas are being visited by the North Pole this week, according to a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.
The reports of 5 to 6 inches of snow in Searcy are a product of the cold air that “literally came from the North Pole, the North Pole,” Dylan Cooper said.
“It kind of broke loose out of Canada, and you can imagine the Rocky Mountains being the wall or the barrier on the west, and basically the cold air rode down through the northern plains-central plains and right on here to the southern plains,” Cooper said.
“Winter, we are having it all in the same week. This is the first of two storms we are expecting this week.”
He said the snow levels in Searcy were reported Monday morning, and there was more snow in the afternoon, so he said it could have ended up a half-inch more or even closer to 2 inches in some places.
According to Cooper, what makes this weather event interesting is that “typically in Arkansas, if we get a winter storm it is usually a pretty quick affair. You get cold air in, precipitation and then we usually start warming up pretty soon after the storm.”
“What makes this a little bit different is that this is a very cold Arctic air mass. It is not really going to be moving a whole lot this week,” he said. “So we are dealing with not record cold, but we are getting close in some places and that is going to keep whatever has fallen Monday on the grounds. It is not going to melt. It may compact down a little bit but the snow is not going to be going anywhere.”
Cooper said the coldest air was expected overnight Monday into Tuesday morning.
“For you guys up in White County, your range for temperatures overnight will be anything from 2 above to 2 below zero and that would be the actual air temperature. Some folks could see windchills from minus-5 to minus-10.”
The recorded record low for Searcy is 20 below zero in January 1918. The one-day record for snowfall in Searcy is 11 inches in January 1918. The two-day record for the city was set in February 1921, 15 inches, which also set the five-day maximum.
Cooper said he believes that last time Arkansas had a cold weather outbreak of this magnitude was back in the 1980s. “It has been a good long time before we have seen something like this.” Born in 1987, Cooper said in his lifetime, he doesn’t remember anything like this as far as the weather this week.
“It’s kind of double-edged sword,” he said. “As much as you can enjoy the winter weather, it is very hazardous. The message we have been pushing out is that if you have plants or pets that are outside, they will not survive this level of cold. Folks need to check on their people to make sure their neighbors and folks are all right.
“As long as people play it smart and support one another, we will get through it, but again seeing something of this magnitude while it is exciting as meteorologists, you also have to consider the impacts it has on people and that does concern us. It worries us to see that people are subject to something like this and if they are not prepared, they are probably going to have a rough time.”
Cooper said although he can’t predict if Arkansas will have “another big weather event” this winter, “between what we have experienced Sunday into Monday and what we have got coming with this next system, I would be very hard pressed to think we are going to top it as we transition into the warmer months.”
Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne said residents need to keep in mind how dangerous this weather can be.
“If it is not an emergency, don’t get out,” Osborne said. “We are doing the best we can to clean off the main thoroughfares and salt and sand them. There is a whole lot of snow and there is really no way to prepare for that.”
Pangburn Mayor Mike Marsh said Monday afternoon that he checked with the city’s police chief and said “all of our side streets are snow-covered. I heard the highway department has made it down and they are working on clearing Main Street. My main thing is people just need to stay home. Get out if you have to but stay home [otherwise]. If you have an emergency call 911, our police and fire will respond.”
Marsh said he was getting out on foot to check fire stations and other places in Pangburn.
Bald Knob Mayor Barth Grayson said the winter weather is “coming from tornado alley from Austin, Texas, straight shot to Bald Knob, Ark., into Jonesboro.” Because of it, “our trash pickup they will try to resume Saturday for all that they can do, but they will have to resume regular pickup next week; that is what is planned. Residents will just have to keep it [trash] in extra bag and they will be ok to be put out next week. That is real important for everybody, everywhere.
“Other than on the main roads, the snow is really too deep for a lot of cars that are so close to the ground,” he said. “They will get clogged up.”
White County Sheriff Phillip Miller on Monday afternoon said that he had “not heard of any particular roads” that were trouble spots.
“They are all covered with snow and slow going,” Miller said. “We haven’t had near the traffic [that there usually is], places that are real bad as far as piled up vehicles.”
Shelby Williams, a dispatcher for Towmater Towing Service and O’Dell Towing in Searcy, said since the ice came early Thursday morning, they have responded to 62 calls in Searcy and have had to turn down 100 to 200 calls. She said most of the calls have been “winch outs,” where people have to have their vehicles pulled out of ditches, “right and left.”
Williams said ordinarily they take calls from all over White County but this time because of call volume in Searcy, they have been confined to servicing the Searcy area.
Williams said they have had calls from residents in their driveways who were stuck and couldn’t get out. “We would hook up to the bottom of their vehicle and pretty much yank it out on to a flat surface.”
Other type calls, Williams said, concerned residents running out of gas. “We have done our best to get there as soon as possible and people have been much appreciative of it.”
School districts in the county planned to have closed campusesTuesday and use remote learning, with Pangburn, Rose Bud and Riverview already announcing that they also will be closed Wednesday.
Harding University had a snow day Monday and the campus planned to close again. Tuesday