JONESBORO — Utility officials felt a sense of relief following ice and sleet Thursday, while road crews worked to clear streets and highways.
The National Weather Service predicts bitter cold temperatures and more winter precipitation for the next week as several weather systems enter the area, “some of which could be significant,” according to the Memphis office. Wind chills Sunday and Monday are forecast to fall below zero north of Interstate 40.
Forecasters said there is a chance of freezing rain today and Saturday.
By mid-Thursday afternoon Jonesboro’s 911 dispatchers handled five calls of traffic accidents with injuries, 46 calls for other traffic accidents and 17 calls for cars in ditches as a result of the slick roads throughout Craighead County, said Jeff Presley, E911 director.
Only four homes were affected by power outages inside Jonesboro, City Water and Light spokesman Kevan Inboden said Thursday afternoon.
Craighead Electric Cooperative, which serves a large portion of Northeast Arkansas, also escaped with few outages.
A broken power pole in the Weona community east of Harrisburg off of Arkansas 14 affected 106 members, said Monty Williams, Craighead Electric spokesman. However, that outage lasted only about an hour as linemen replaced the pole.
One outage, southwest of Trumann, was caused, not by weather, but by a weather balloon, Williams said. The balloon became entangled in some lines on Maple Grove Lane, he said.
At Entergy, only 840 of about 5,000 outages statewide remained without power by nightfall Thursday, said Michael Considine, vice president of customer service.
“We had more sleet and less freezing rain than anticipated, so we had fewer outages than we planned for,” Considine said, “which is always a good thing. We know that the loss of power disrupts our customers’ lives, and we will continue working until all customers have been restored.
“We are looking ahead and planning for sub-freezing temperatures and the possibility of snow and more freezing rain Sunday evening and overnight into Monday,” he continued.
In a news release, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Copenhaver encourages residents to remain vigilant in preparations for unyielding frigid temperatures.
Barring unexpected precipitation, city offices will be open for business at 10 a.m. today, as are Craighead County offices. JET bus service and sanitation routes also plan to run.
Garbage pickup will resume, depending on whether Legacy Landfill is open. If the landfill is open, Thursday’s regular trash and recycling routes will be run today, and Friday’s regular routes will be picked up Saturday.
As temperatures will only grow colder through the weekend, Copenhaver expressed the need for residents to continue to stay warm and safe, and travel only when necessary.
“Between our Streets Department and ArDOT, we have cleaned a lot of miles of streets and highways,” Copenhaver said. “But don’t let down your guard just because a street looks clear. Ice remains out there, and the most dangerous ice is the ice you don’t see. Drive slow and keep distance from other vehicles.”
Fire Chief Kevin Miller said it will be a while before roads become easier to travel, but he was encouraged by motorists’ response to the sleet covering streets around Jonesboro Thursday morning.
“The caution shown by our motorists has so far resulted in fewer calls than we anticipated,” Miller said. “We don’t expect more precipitation until Monday, but the weekend could still be dangerous because of the severe temperatures.”
Copenhaver checked on staff and those staying at the Salvation Army on Thursday, and he thanked all for working together to make the experience both warm and friendly. So far, the Salvation Army has not seen a need that exceeds capacity, but the city is working with public and private partners to provide more overnight space if necessary.
City recreation centers continue to serve as warming centers.