LITTLE ROCK (AP) — The start of a winter storm left an icy glaze across eastern Arkansas on Friday, snarling traffic and shuttering schools ahead of a cold snap expected to last into next week.
The snow and ice wasn't terribly deep, but their arrival ahead of the morning rush hour slowed commuters at Jonesboro and West Memphis. Traffic cameras showed motorists following snow plows on their icy patrols.
"When you put traffic on a road that has winter precipitation on it, you're going to have some problems," said Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Transportation. Except for spots near Lonoke and Osceola where ice caused vehicles to slide off the roads, highways remained open.
"We're very fortunate," he said. "It was a good event for crews that hadn't seen anything for a while."
Arkansas last had a winter storm a year ago.
Friday's snowstorm moved east during the afternoon and threatened the Ohio Valley and the northeastern U.S. with heavy snow and ice. In Arkansas, temperatures were forecast to remain well below normal, with lows in the single digits, teens and 20s until the middle of next week.
Friday's winter weather followed a cold front that brought steady rains to the state Thursday. The rain prevented highway crews from pretreating the roads, but they dropped rock salt as the temperature dropped. Because snow and ice amounts weren't deep, Arkansas would recover quickly, Straessle said.
The only trouble spot for the highway agency was its website, which slowed as 35,000 unique visitors per minute queried its maps and traffic cameras. Additional server space was brought on to carry the load, Straessle said.
Schools in the eastern and southern parts of the state closed. Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs opened its turnstiles as scheduled — under a cold, clear sky — with a full slate of thoroughbred horse races on the card.