CRAIGHEAD COUNTY — As winter weather continued to pummel the region with both freezing rain, snow and frigid temperatures, towns throughout Craighead County have been coping to the best of their ability this week. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning alert to remain in effect until late today.
Mid-afternoon Tuesday, temperatures reached 15 degrees, allowing more rural towns in Craighead County the chance to clear roads and address other issues.
Monette Mayor Bob Blankenship said clearing the streets on Tuesday gave residents a chance to get to the store for essentials before the next round of winter weather arrived Wednesday.
By Wednesday morning Craighead County Road Superintendent Eugene Neff said county roads were completely covered again.
“What we peeled off earlier in the week had already been covered back up,” Neff said Wednesday morning.
Nevertheless, the brief break in winter weather allowed Craighead County’s rural towns to clear roadways, allowing residents the chance to stock up on essentials.
“One of our local merchants brought a tractor and cleared the parking lot at the bank and at local businesses,” Blankenship said. “I have not seen an empty parking space at the local grocery store in several days.”
Blankenship said the biggest battle his residents face is getting bread. One of the local businesses where bread is baked was instructed not to operate its ovens in order to conserve energy, so residents have to wait until Friday for a shipment.
The town is facing other challenges as well.
Blankenship said previous experience trying to clear roads indicated the town just did not have the capability to clear roads in the middle of a winter storm.
“We will wait until the storm is over before we try to tackle it,” he said.
Monette crews have worked all week to prepare in other ways besides just clearing roads.
“We pre-salted parking lots (and sidewalks),” Blakenship said. “It helps a lot; it did last week.”
Other towns in Craighead County have worked just as hard to keep roads accessible.
Bono Mayor Danny Shaw said his crews worked both Monday and Tuesday to clear roads.
“Even though (Monday) was a holiday, our employees worked all day clearing roads,” Shaw said. “Part of the time they were grading the roads and the precipitation was coming down before they could get the roads clear.”
As the town faced this winter storm system, Shaw said crews will probably get out and grade to keep snow from building up.
“When it is clear we will go back and do a final grade,” he said.
Due to weather conditions, Shaw said the city council meeting scheduled for Tuesday was rescheduled for Feb. 24.
Kenneth Jones, mayor of Brookland, said Brookland streets were covered as of Tuesday morning.
“The snow was packed down really hard. We just tried to smooth it off and did the best we could,” he said.
Jones said road crews will continue to work on clearing streets. “We just prepared for the next round,” he said.
Bay mayor Darrell Kirby said as of Tuesday morning, Bay was doing good.
“We had the county help us to clear roads with the county road graders,” he said. “The state helped us quite a bit, too.”
Two roads that run through Bay, Arkansas 463 and AR-158 were both clear Tuesday afternoon, Kirby said, noting residents could get out however briefly.
City crews used backhoes to clear parking lots of local businesses.
“We worked as fast as we could to get the roads clear,” he said.
Kirby said he’s just not sure if crews can keep up with the next round.
“(Weather forecasters) are predicting 4 to 8 inches of snow by Thursday,” he said.
Besides keeping the roads clear, another concern is the city’s well.
“I saw where Piggott was under a boil order, and that was a big concern for us,” he said.
Kirby said Bay’s chlorination rooms, where the town’s water supply is purified, were equipped with extra space heaters to keep the chemicals from freezing.
“We don’t want our chlorine to freeze,” he said.
Egypt Mayor Jerry Cook said all roads were clear Tuesday thanks to Craighead County road crews. City council members did not allow inclement weather to prevent city operations from occurring.
Cook said Egypt opted to have its city council meeting Tuesday night.
“I told them be ready at 6, I was coming to pick them up.” he said, noting he has a four-wheel-drive vehicle equipped to handle road conditions.
Michael Cureton, mayor of Cash, said Cash roads were clear enough to allow residents safe passage to Jonesboro for supplies on Tuesday.
“We have AR-226 that runs to Jonesboro,” Cureton said. “They could get to Jonesboro, but the streets were bad there.”
Cureton said Cash’s only local store, Jordan’s, has remained open allowing residents access to some essentials.
Lake City Councilman Danny Dunigan said Lake City also prepared its streets ahead of the final round of weather.
“The streets were fairly clear on Tuesday afternoon,” he said, noting the city has faced other challenges besides road conditions. “A couple of nights ago, we had a water main break, and they having been out trying to fix that in freezing temperatures. Those guys are tough.”
Kirby echoed the statement expressed by many officials in the area over the last few days.
“We are just trying to keep up and make sure everything is functional,” he said.
Neff said his best advice for residents in Craighead County is to stay off the roads.
“If we have to stop and pull someone out, that just hinders our progress,” he said.