LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Arkansas officials prepared Thursday for an overnight snowstorm that weather forecasters predicted could leave much of the state with between 1 and 6 inches of snow.
National Weather Service forecasters say counties near Memphis could see up to 8 inches of snow. A winter storm warning was issued for the eastern half of the state, with potential for "significant snow accumulations." The warning was scheduled to last from 6 p.m. Thursday through noon on Friday, weather service meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh said Thursday afternoon.
A winter weather advisory was issued for much of the western half and some other southern parts of the state from 6 p.m. Thursday through about 9 a.m. Friday, he said. Earlier, the weather service had warned that a brief period of sleet and ice could accompany the snowstorm, but Cavanaugh said that had been updated by early afternoon.
"We may have a brief changeover from freezing rain and sleet from between 9 p.m. and midnight," he said. "We don't' expect accumulation from that. Most of our impacts are going to come from snowfall."
"The highest accumulations are expected from Forrest City... down near Pine Bluff and may continue further south. And this does extend to Memphis," he added.
Light rain moved into the state in the late afternoon causing some initial concern for road crews looking to pretreat the roads with about 35,000 tons of rock salt stored at warehouses throughout the state.
Arkansas State highway and Transportation Department spokesman Danny Straessle said the department has trucks ready to move when the "freezing line" enters the state and starts turning rain to ice and snow.
"What we will be doing is our real time delivery of salt," he said. "The rain already on the roadway will melt the rock salt... which will give us a head start on clearing the roads. The goal is to get a layer of salt down so that the precipitation on top does not bond to the pavement if it turns to ice or compacts."
Straessle said plows had already been dispatched to areas between Memphis and Little Rock to prepare for clearing of interstates and major throughways.
Cavanaugh said strong winds starting around 3 a.m. will make travel and visibility difficult. He said the snow should taper off after the sun rises Friday.
Straessle said highway department workers will update road conditions in real time on the department's website, iDriveArkansas.com.