As an Arkansas native, it’s difficult to think about winter in The Natural State without remembering the terrible Arkansas ice storms.
Arkansas’s weather is always unpredictable. There could be a warm spell around Christmas that means you’ll be wearing a t-shirt to Grandma’s house or the roads could be slick with ice so that you can’t go to Grandma’s at all.
You never know if there might be a freak tornado in January because that happened back in 1999. In fact, 56 tornadoes were spawned on January 21-22, 1999.
“In the Little Rock County Warning Area…there were 30 tornado tracks across 15 counties. The Little Rock office issued 48 tornado warnings, 80 severe thunderstorm warnings and 22 flash flood warnings during the event. The tornadoes were responsible for 8 fatalities and 140 to 150 injuries.
Most of the tornadoes were produced between 4 pm and 8 pm CST on the 21st, and were accompanied by baseball to grapefruit size hail at times.” -source
However, these winter tornadoes are quite rare. It’s the ice storms that I worry about.
I remember the worst ice storm Arkansas had seen in 70 years. This happened in December of 2000 and I was 14 years old.
It all started with a mixture of sleet and snow in central Arkansas. Extreme northern areas received mostly that rare Arkansas snow while southern Arkansas experienced a mixture of freezing rain and sleet.
I was in central Arkansas where the brunt of the snow and sleet mixture fell.
“Ice collected on trees and power lines during both events. The buildup of ice stressed trees and tree limbs to the point where they fell on houses, causing some structural (mostly roof) damage. Also, power lines were downed by fallen trees, or snapped due to the weight of the ice…with numerous power outages noted. Over 500,000 customers lost power, with many customers without electricity for days (and weeks in some cases).” -source
We lost power at our house for an entire week. My parents sent me and my sister to my grandparents’ house because, even though they didn’t have power either, they at least had a gas burning stove to cook on.
My parents and my brother stayed at our home. They circled the couches in the living room around the coffee table and put an oil burning lamp in the middle. It was like a terribly cold campout that lasted for a week.
Thankfully, it only lasted for a week. Our friends who lived in the same town lost power for two weeks. Once we got our power back, they would come over to our house for a hot shower.
“Looking back at the records, the events of December, 2000 were comparable to the ice of December, 1932. In the end, this was the worst icing in almost 70 years and the costliest natural disaster in state recorded history.” -source
Any ice storm in Arkansas is a dangerous situation for anyone who might need to get to the hospital or for folks who rely on electricity for life-saving machines. Because, when an ice storm hits in Arkansas, it comes in full force.
The ice storm of 2000 was definitely not an event that any of us were prepared for. As an adult with children of my own now, I always keep this time in the back of my mind when winter arrives in Arkansas. Canned food can be essential during a time like this when there is no power to cook. Also, I know how to build a rocket stove out of bricks so that I could easily cook a pot of beans or soup if need be. Though it would be terribly cold outside.
In Arkansas, you always have to be prepared. You never know what the weather might throw at you!
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