By CHUCK BARTELS
Associated Press WRITER
LITTLE ROCK — Snow and freezing rain, possible tornadoes and single-digit temperatures are all components of the Arkansas weather forecast for the next couple of days.
A mass of bitterly cold air was forecast to meet a large area of moist air over the state, resulting in a quarter-inch or more of freezing rain accumulation from Fort Smith to Mountain Home, followed by 2 to 6 inches of snow Monday night and Tuesday morning.
A blizzard warning was posted for eastern Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri, an area that touches northwest Arkansas.
The National Weather Service said an area from Mena in southwestern Arkansas to Marshall in the state’s north-central region was likely to get a light coating of freezing rain. The forecast for central and east Arkansas called mainly for rain and perhaps a dusting of snow, though severe thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes were also possible.
A period of extreme cold was forecast to follow the wintery precipitation, with temperatures a few degrees below zero forecast for the state’s north, and single digits and teens further south.
The hard freeze could pose a danger to residents in the state’s north because of the prospect of power outages as utility lines and trees become coated with ice and snow.
Many residents were preparing Monday for rough weather.
Jake Jacobs, manager of Johnson’s Hardware in Fayetteville, said kerosene, lamp oil, snow shovels, ice melt and generator components were moving briskly.
"We’ll run out by the end of the day," Jacobs said.
Many customers were adding to emergency supplies left over from an ice storm in 2009 that caused widespread power outages.
The store hasn’t been selling chainsaws as fast as other items, but Jacobs said that could change.
"If it’s a timber cruncher like (in 2009), we will," Jacobs said.
Jeff Hood, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, said it is important that residents take notice of the cold that will follow the wintery precipitation. Winds of 20 mph or more will come out of the northwest, which could be bad news for ice-laden trees and power lines.
Hood said thunderstorms are the main threat for south and central Arkansas, with large hail possible.
Isolated tornadoes are also possible, though Hood said a massive outbreak is not expected.
Temperatures were in the 70s in much of the state over the weekend and the switch from warmth to cold can make for violent weather when there is enough moisture in the atmosphere
Tornadoes in winter are far from rare in Arkansas.
On Dec. 31, a tornado hit the northwest Arkansas hamlet of Cincinnati, where four people died.
On Feb. 5, 2008, a powerful tornado killed 13 people as it carved a 123-mile path through Atkins, Clinton, Mountain View and Highland. And on Jan. 21, 1999, a swarm of 56 tornadoes sliced through the state, the largest one-day outbreak in Arkansas history..
The winter storm is expected to generate the usual hazards involved in driving, said Glenn Bolick, a spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.
Bolick said it is particularly hard to treat highways for freezing rain as it is difficult to predict where the line between freezing and non-freezing rain will be. The lingering cold weather won’t help, he said.
"Ice is bad for several reasons. It’s hard to pre-treat for ice because (if there is rain) the chemicals all go away. Once there is ice, it’s hard to get rid of and hard to drive in for us and for the public," Bolick said.
Most of north Arkansas isn’t forecast to have above-freezing temperatures until the weekend.
Bolick said road crews have plenty of ice-melting chemicals and sand and that staff members are on call for whenever they need to treat the highways.
Mel Coleman of the Northeast Electric Cooperative said the utility is already in crisis mode, having endured the ice storm in 2009.
"As with any storm, we remind all cooperative members to be prepared for short-term power outages," he said, adding that longer intervals without electricity are possible, depending on the severity of the storm.