We still have eight days left in February, and already this is the third snowiest month in Little Rock since we started keeping records in the 1800s. And it is one of the most severe snowstorms statewide as well.
The snow and cold temperatures forced utility companies to employ rolling power outages to reduce the strain on our energy system around the state, and as a result, thousands of homes and businesses lost electricity for a limited amount of time. In addition, low pressure in a supply line cut off natural gas service to 2,300 residents of Pea Ridge, which left many of them without heat.
This record-breaking storm illustrates the degree to which states depend upon each other in a natural crisis, whether it’s an event such as the historic flood of 2019 or a bone-chilling winter storm such as this one. Arkansas was one of more than a dozen states that has endured several days of subfreezing temperatures, and all of this put pressure on energy supplies across the region.
In an effort to reduce the load on the grid before the rolling outages, Entergy, SWEPCO, and other power companies encouraged customers to use only the lights necessary, to set thermostats at sixty-five degrees to sixty-eight degrees, and to delay laundry, dishwashing, and baths until the weather relented.
Peter Main, a spokesman for Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), noted in a newspaper interview that energy doesn’t come just from “the power plant next door.”
He said, “What we do in Arkansas helps other states, and what folks do in North Dakota helps Arkansas. It’s a matter of small adjustments by each individual.”
How bad was this storm? Gurdon had the most snow in Arkansas with twenty-one inches. Fayetteville set a record with a low temperature of twenty degrees below zero. Little Rock’s fifteen-inch snowfall tied a record from 1918, but the capital city’s low temperature of one-degree below zero wasn’t the coldest ever. Fort Smith’s low of eight-degrees below is its seventh coldest recorded temperature.
The weather has kept many of our road crews away from home for the entire week, and we are grateful for their service. The crew in Maumelle has been working in two shifts and sleeping in the city’s bunk house. Power company linemen have been tromping through snowy woods and climbing ice-covered poles to repair lines. Our police officers have been rescuing drivers and working dozens of accidents at great risk.
As disruptive as this storm has been, it also produced beautiful sights and sounds that we don’t often enjoy in Arkansas. There is something special about the beauty of snow-covered hills and trees. The paved streets have been empty; the traffic is on hills all over the state, and we see our kids – the young ones and the adult ones as well – slide down hills on red Flexible Flyers and brown cardboard boxes.
This rare winter storm soon will be history, and I know it has caused a hardship for many, but I hope that it has produced some warm memories as well.