At top: A house on Pleasant Forest Drive. It had been vacant, but burned after a lightning-started fire.
At right: An oak tree destroyed by lighnting on Kanis Road, a few blocks west of Baptist Medical Center. Bark was thrown across Kanis Road, Robinson said. He called it the worst lightning-hit tree he'd seen.
At bottom: Damage done by another lightning-caused fire in the kitchen of a home in the Twin Lakes subdivision also near Baptist Medical Center.
There were more than, 1,700 lightning strikes in the area between 7 and 9 p.m. last night.
The Montgomery County Regional Water Authority has issued a precautionary boil order for folks in Mount Ida and Oden/Pencil Bluff, an area that includes the Mountain Harbor resort and condos on Lake Ouachita.
The storms that passed through two weeks ago not only raised the water level on Lake Ouachita six feet, they flooded the county reservoir, sending debris and creating a "spike in turbidity," the authority says in its boil order to residents. Water is being tested in Little Rock today; residents and summer vacationers should hear something from the Authority tomorrow on when the order is lifted.
The authority recommends tossing all ice cubes and boiling water for one minute prior to drinking or using for cooking and cleaning.
UPDATE: No identities as yet, but the State Police is reporting that there have been fatalities as a result of the storm and flooding in Scott County.
Flash flooding early this morning in the Waldron area trapped people in homes and prompted rescue efforts, Channel 4 says.
UPDATE II: The news grows far worse in this updated from KFSM:
The body of Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter has been found, but a Game and Fish officer and others are still missing. He apparently drowned attempting to rescue others.
Highway 71 South from Y City to Mena remains closed Friday morning after heavy rain and severe weather Thursday night.
Eyewitnesses said families are displaced and Scott County dispatchers said swift water rescues have taken place throughout the night.
At mid-morning, officials were fearing at least three fatalities — the sheriff, the missing officer, Joel Campora, and one other unidentified body, a woman already found. Questions remain about those living in low-lying areas that led authorities there in the first place.
A National Guard helicopter worked through the day on rescues of people trapped by floodwaters.
Channel 4 put together a good video segment that shows how 3-7 inches of ran filled a valley in Scott County where the worst flooding occurred, near Y City.
Also, from Keith Stephens at the Game and Fish Commisson on officer Joel Campora:
He is 32 years old and lives in Waldron with his wife and two children. He’s been with the AGFC since 2007. He started his enforcement career with the Mena PD in 2003. At this point, it looks like the Sheriff and Joel were attempting a rescue in a house that was being flooded. It appears that they two fell in the water and were swept away. The sheriff was found about 1.5 miles downstream from Y City where the house was located. We are currently searching the area on foot and by vehicle. A helicopter has been brought in as well. The two people they were trying to rescue from the house are missing as well.
ALSO: Great story by Gavin Lesnick on the free portion of the Democrat-Gazette website about a Oden couple whose home was washed away with them in it and then hit a tree and split apart. They hung onto a tree until being rescued.
UPDATE: Gov. Mike Beebe has declared six counties disaster areas as a result of a variety of weather events — Cross, Montgomery, Poinsett, Polk, Scott and Van Buren
As forecast, Northwest Arkansas got a May snow and thanks to Blog reader Charlie Hughes for sending the photo above from Fayetteville.
Snow was officially observed last night, setting a record for latest snowfall in Arkansas until this morning, when May 3 snow became the new record.
It dropped to 41 in Little Rock this morning, tying a record. Fox 16 said measurable snowfall ranged from 1.5 inches in Rogers to 3 inches in Siloam Springs and 5 inches in Decatur.
It's going to stay cool tonight and tomorrow, with snowflakes still a possibility in the north.
Not that it'll do a damn bit of good, but here's one of a jillion handy links for the weather deniers who say if it's hot one day in winter and cold one day in spring that must mean there's no such thing as climate change.
A late spring snow is in the offing for a big part of the Central U.S. and some of those flakes could fall in Arkansas, in the far northwestern corner. If so, it would be a record.
John Robinson of the National Weather Service provides the historical context:
Since we've had a lot of questions about Arkansas snows in April and/or May, here are some statistics worked up by Brian Smith, one of our senior forecasters...
Latest accumulating snow: 0.2 inch at Corning on April 24, 1910
Latest snow: Trace at Fayetteville, Gravette, and Harrison on April 30, 1903
For Little Rock:
Latest accumulating snow: 0.8 inch on March 30, 1987
Latest snow: Trace on April 19, 1983
We've gotten e-mails and seen comments online about people saying they had seen accumulating snow at various places in Arkansas in May. While it's important to remember that weather records are taken from official observing stations only, the dates and years that people have said they saw snow in Arkansas in May would have been virtually impossible.
Also, It is important to note that, at various times over the years, there was a requirement that hail be reported as "snow" (technically, frozen precipitation) so there will be records from some years that show "snow" in the summer months.
Here is something I worked up last night in reply to a media e-mail. I had Brian Smith look this over, as well:
I remarked that NLR had seemed less affected by power outages during the winter storm than Little Rock. He mentioned that a devastating experience in 2000 had encouraged aggressive right of way maintenance in the years since in North Little Rock. He said that could have reduced the impact of this year's storm in the city.
So I asked Julie Munsell of Entergy a question that several have asked about the year-round work of clearing of power line right of way. I confess that you most often hear about this topic when someone complains that the work has taken too much of a tree down, or trimmed it in an unsightly fashion. The quality of the work in terms of electricity service becomes an issue only in the emergencies.
We do prepare for storms year-round which includes trimming trees. While that preparation is extremely important during storms, the biggest influencing factor on any given storm is mother nature — where the storm strikes and what are the compounding elements such as ice, snow, and in this case wind. Over the last few years, we’ve stepped up vegetation management in part in direct response to issues such as drought. We currently spend $18-20 million dollars annually in this program.
I asked Munsell, too, about the cost of cleanup this year and how it will affect ratepayers, who pay the cost.
We don’t yet have a cost estimate for this storm. Every storm is different, but we can look at past storms for a general point of reference which does indicate we will exceed the reserve funding that is set aside. For example, we are recovering costs from the 2009 ice storm. The total recovery cost is $126.3 million which comes out to $.92 [monthly] for a typical residential bill.
I mentioned that some news accounts, in talking with her, had seemed to suggest Entergy would absorb repair costs, as opposed to customers. She wrote back:
If the impression was conveyed through other media accounts that cost recovery would not be an issue, that was certainly not my intention. I appreciate you asking me directly for clarification.
So let there be light. By the way, Entergy has declared the repair work complete for "those who can accept power." Which means some homes have damage that prevent resumption of power service and thus remain in the dark, but all distribution lines and other circuits have been restored.
Repair crews soldier on. One small point: I noted a line in the newspaper today saying that the cost of all this falls on Entergy. They indeed put up the money, but, eventally, ratepayers pay.
Utilities are allowed to charge ratepayers for repairing storm damage. Sometimes it comes in the form of a surcharge after insurance payments have been made. (See Louisina after hurricane cleanup.)
Ratepayers are already paying into an accrual fund for disruptions. The damage can sometimes exceed reserves, such as last year in Mississippi, when Entergy asked for a rate increase to cover storm damage.
In Arkansas in 2000, the method of covering Entergy's costs for ice storm cleanup became the subject of some dispute. The Entergy/state plan used accumulated rate overcharges to pay for the cleanup. Some customers wanted to amortize the costs over 10 years in rates. In Louisiana, bond issues were floated (paid off by customer bills) to cover massive hurricane costs over time.
This is just a reminder: The repair work isn't charity or a permanent Entergy freebie. When the lights come on, we all appreciate the 16-hour days that linemen are putting in to restore power. But they are being paid for the overtime (plus significant expenses for out-of-state crews) and ratepayers will foot the bill, sooner or later. That's fair, given our expectations for reliable utility service as a living essential. But it's also worth remembering that unregulated businesses that don't operate as monopolies under state oversight don't have the same fallback when catastrophic events befall them. They can't always pass along unexpected costs to customers because they have competition who might not have been affected by the same catastrophe.
Everybody's talking about it. And what's being done?' (Apart from Entergy's huge mobilization, which brought me power by 9 p.m. last night.)
* STATE OF ARKANSAS: From the governor's office:
With re-frozen roads expexted to further deteriorate driving conditions Thursday morning, Governor Mike Beebe has again ordered only essential personnel to report to work at State offices in the Little Rock Metropolitan Area on Thursday. Agency directors and supervisors will decide who those people are and when they will arrive at work.
* CITY OF LITTLE ROCK: Bottom line seems to be put out your garbage monsters and some day a truck might be along to empty them. This week. Next week (another holiday week remember). Weather willing (see below). And as for all the tree debris, well, who knows? From Meg Matthews, who says city offices will open at noon:
The City of Little Rock's Public Works 5epartment will be picking up trash because of the snow storm, Residents are asked to put their trash carts out one day later than their regular day. Crews will be working over time and through the weekend to get it all picked up. Some carts may be on the curb for a couple of days before they are emptied-however crews will get to them asap.
* AND WHAT DO THE HEAVENS HOLD FOR US? The news from the National Weather Service this morning isn't uplifting. The full hazardous weather outlook, transmitted at 5 a.m. this morning, is on the jump (but the major takeaway is a chance of light snow or freezing rain Friday morning and a mention of a chance for more messy weather next week):
For the skywatchers out there, this from Accuweather on forecast for snow on Christmas evening:
AccuWeather reports all the ingredients are coming together for a major snowstorm to unfold Christmas Day and spread from the southern Plains to the eastern Great Lakes and Northeast.
Far more potent than the snow event headed to the Northeast Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, this storm will unload windswept and burying snow on its northwestern flank.
While snow will push through the Rockies—including Denver—Christmas Eve, the worst of the snowstorm will take shape Christmas Day across the southern Plains.
Snow will intensify Tuesday as it spreads from the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas to the Red River and western Arkansas. The major snowstorm will then press northeastward Tuesday night into Thursday, passing from Arkansas into the Ohio Valley, then the eastern Great Lakes and Northeast.
Some snow could even press as far south as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex Tuesday and northern Louisiana Tuesday night.
Other weather services have strengthened their predictions of snow showers in the evening Christmas day, with a high during the day of 38 with rain.
OK, let's play along with snow hysteria. The s-word has crept into 10-day forecasts for Little Rock on Christmas day. (The rest of the state will have to do its own searching.) A rundown on current predictions from across the prognosticating spectrum for Christmas day in the capital:
* WEATHER.COM: High 42; low 29. chance of rain/snow showers Christmas night.
* WEATHER UNDERGROUND: High 45. Low Christmas night 30. 50 percent chance of snow.
* ACCUWEATHER: High 46. Low 31. "Occasional evening rain and drizzle followed by a flurry late."
* NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: High 47. Low 32. Chance of precipitation 50 percent.
Belated commuter warning: At 8 a.m. this morning they still haven't cleared that tree from Kavanaugh Boulevard in the stretch of the Hillcrest promenade. Traffic was being diverted to Woodlawn for that short stretch. I noticed some businesses along Kavanaugh still lack power, too.
UPDATE: The power outages are widespread. Here's a look at Entergy problems statewide. A friend in Hillcrest said he'd just learned his home wouldn't have power restored until Sunday.
The storms last night spawned a tornado near Sheridan, the National Weather Service reports.
John Robinson of the Weather Service provided the photo of a doublewide mobile home destroyed about a mile west-southwest of Sheridan city limits. He said a damage survey is still in progress, but most damage has been found on County Road 43 and Shoemaker Drive.
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