Over 140,000 Entergy Arkansas customers are without electricity two days after a Christmas Day storm delivered freezing rain, sleet and over a foot of snow in areas statewide, prompting Gov. Mike Beebe to declare statewide emergency.
Officials with Entergy say nearly 75,000 customers in the Little Rock area could remain without power over the next week.
In Faulkner County, around 5,000 remained in the dark Thursday.
At peak, the company reported nearly 200,000 outages statewide and 6,300 customers without power in Faulkner County.
Entergy provides power to 700,000 customers in 63 of the state's 75 counties.
According to a utility timetable, service could be restored to most homes and businesses in Forrest City, Lonoke, Marion, Pine Bluff and Stuttgart on Thursday; Blytheville and Jacksonville on Friday and the hardest-hit area of Hot Springs, Little Rock and Marion in seven or more days.
The publicly-traded company summoned about 4,000 additional workers to assist with repairs; though dangerous road conditions and traffic congestion made it difficult for work crews to begin restoration efforts.
Falling trees and tree limbs also posed a risk to the scout teams who were working to assess damages to the company's electric grid, according to Entergy spokeswoman Julie Munsell.
Getting the lights back on will be a long and pain-staking process,” said Hugh McDonald, president and CEO of Entergy. “Nature dealt us a one-two punch with winter precipitation and high winds that severely damaged our electrical grid and left us with dangerous working conditions for our repair crews. We are asking customers for their understanding and patience as we restore power as quickly and safely as possible in a very hazardous work environment.”
Entergy officials reminded customers to stay safe and away from downed power lines through the restoration period. Customers are advised against trimming trees or removing debris on or near downed power lines, and to stay a safe distance away from active work zones and restoration workers on the job.
Locally, road conditions continued to improve Thursday, though motorists were observed slipping and sliding along icy patches on less-traveled streets, while travel along many rural roads and bridges remained hazardous.
An even greater number of stranded vehicles abided alongside ditches and medians on Interstate 40 and county roads.
A warming station at the McGee Center in Conway opened Wednesday, though only one person stayed overnight, Conway Fire Chief Bart Castleberry said Thursday.
Officials plan to reevaluate the weather conditions today and decide whether to keep the center open overnight, as the National Weather Service predicts another round of rain or freezing rain and sleet through 9 a.m. Friday, with a low around 28 degrees.
NWS predicts rainfall after 11 a.m. with a chance of rain or freezing rain before 10 p.m., then a slight chance of freezing rain and sleet between 10 p.m. Friday and 1 a.m. Saturday.
Sunday’s forecast sees no precipitation through Monday, when NWS again predicts a 30 percent chance of rain, freezing rain and sleet, with a high near 49.
Snow isn't unusual in Arkansas, but the last time a measurable amount fell on Christmas Day was in 1926, with 9 inches accumulating on the 25th and 1.3 inches the following day.
(Associated Press contributed to this report. Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 505-1277 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter @LCDonline.)