Live Blog: Winter Storm Updates

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A powerful winter storm system will be impacting Arkansas and Oklahoma on Christmas Day into Wednesday. Accumulating snow is likely along with widespread travel impacts. This “live blog” will be updated throughout the event with the latest thinking and forecasts from 5NEWS Meteorologists: Garrett Lewis & Joe Pennington.

iPIX of the winter weather event are welcome at

Garrett Lewis December 25, 201210:08 pm

Snow is ending from the west to the east and VERY cold temperatures are filter in. Much colder weather is expected for tomorrow with highs only in the upper 20s and 30s.

Flurries will continue through midnight

Shain Bergan December 25, 20128:43 pm

Up to 1-inch of snow continues to be possible in eastern Benton and eastern Washington counties, and all of Madison and Carroll counties over the next few hours, according Meteorologist Garrett Lewis.

Alicia Agent December 25, 20126:05 pm

Lee Avenue completely closed in Fort Smith due to dangerous driving conditions.

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20125:46 pm

Up on Mt Magazine… Judging by the radar and the wind speeds at that elevation you should be at white-out blizzard conditions with at least 6″ already on the ground and over 1ft possible.

Alicia Agent December 25, 20125:41 pm

You should be looking at the Fort Smith Pavilion right now… but with OG&E reporting more than 900 power outages, it’s a little dark.

Alicia Agent December 25, 20125:37 pm

Arkansas (
(501) 569-2374
(800) 245-1672

Oklahoma (
(405) 425-2385
(888) 425-2385

Shain Bergan December 25, 20124:46 pm

The Tyson plant in Waldron will temporarily close down due to weather. The night shift Tuesday has been called off, along with the day shift Wednesday, officials say.

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20124:31 pm

Snow in Northcentral Arkansas is wrapping into NWA… still expecting minor accumulations with the heaviest along the I40 corridor

Alicia Agent December 25, 20124:30 pm

OG&E reporting about 940 power outages in Fort Smith

Alicia Agent December 25, 20124:10 pm

@5NEWSShain reports: Two patients transported to the hospital out of car crash in northbound I-540 lane just north of Bobby Hopper Tunnel, according to EMS. The patients were complaining of minor wrist and neck injuries, according to Central EMS in Washington County

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20123:44 pm

The lift from the terrain in the foothills of the Ozarks could be contributing to the higher snow totals in Franklin and Crawford Co right now.

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20123:40 pm

Greatest location for maximum snow. Near blizzard conditions possible next 4 hours due to high winds and low visibility.

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20123:15 pm

Check highway link for yourself anytime at this address:

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20123:15 pm

Travel conditions deteriorating fast.

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20123:05 pm

All roads in Scott County reported as Ice covered.

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20123:05 pm

All highways in Logan Co are now snow covered….

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20123:01 pm

Highway 71 from Y-City South to Mena is snow covered

I540 from Fayetteville to Fort Smith reported as “slushy” as of 3pm

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20122:59 pm

Big, heavy snow band in N Franklin Co moving into Crawford and Sequoyah Co. Snow rates 1-2″/hour. Low visibility

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20122:51 pm

The National Weather Service has issued a “Wind Advisory” in addition to the “Winter Storm Warning”…

Interestingly… we’re just barely under “Blizzard Warning” criteria in the River Valley. (A blizzard is 1/4 mile visibility and winds to 35mph)

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20122:51 pm

For those who have been following all of the model data over the last few days… it appears a blend of the hard “south track” and the extreme “north track” is what’s playing out.

Around 1-2″ remain possible in NWA

Anywhere from 2-5″ remain possible from I40 and south (although sleet, rain, & freezing rain could cause lower totals in some areas)

High elevations in the Ouachitas above 1,500ft could see 6-10 inches of snow.

Lowest totals to the NW…. highest totals to the SE

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20122:18 pm

Snow is also accumulating in Booneville via Felica Young

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20122:15 pm

Heavy snow now underway in Abbott, AR ipix via Shelia. Abbott is just east of Mansfield

Garrett Lewis December 25, 20122:12 pm

Widespread reports of sleet/snow/freezing rain… expecting a changeover to all snow in the next few hours. Heaviest still looks to occur from I40 and south

Garrett Lewis December 25, 201210:30 am

Latest NWS Image of snow total predictions based on the southward shift

Garrett Lewis December 25, 201210:05 am

Northern Benton Co may only see flurries… while Mena could see a foot of snow. How’s that for a forecasting mess?

Alicia Agent December 25, 201210:03 am

Traveling in Oklahoma? Follow @OKDOT on Twitter for road conditions

Garrett Lewis December 25, 201210:00 am

Morning run of the WSI RPM Model has shifted north a tad and is more in line with the other pieces of data. Expect the heaviest snow in the RV and Ouachitas. Much less in NWA

Joe Pennington December 25, 20129:58 am

The brand new run of the NAM just came in. Still supports a more southward trend of the higher snow accumulations, basically south of I-40. Snow totals drop off quick across Northwest Arkansas.

Alicia Agent December 25, 20129:39 am

Below is a list of phone numbers and web sites to check for road conditions in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and surrounding states.

Arkansas (
(501) 569-2374
(800) 245-1672

Oklahoma (
(405) 425-2385
(888) 425-2385

Kansas (
(866) 511-5368

Missouri (
(800) 222-6400

Joe Pennington December 25, 20128:29 am

The shift south continues??

The new run of the NAM model is coming in now and the heavy band of snow looks to set up across southeast OK this afternoon through the Ouachitas and the eastern River Valley.

This could still change, but if this pans out the accumulations will be heaviest south of I-40 with lighter accumulations in NWA.

Joe Pennington December 25, 20127:32 am

Slick roads being reported in Cherokee and Adair counties with several accidents reported due to freezing rain. Light freezing rain will be possible in NWA this morning and roads could quickly become slick.

This will be the case this morning before it switches to snow later this afternoon.




Joe Pennington December 25, 20126:34 am

There is a batch of light freezing rain moving to the north at 6:30AM. This area of freezing rain will be moving into NWA after 7AM. Roads could become slick fast, especially the bridges and overpasses.

Joe Pennington December 25, 20126:29 am

Arkansas road conditions can be found here:

Joe Pennington December 25, 20126:27 am

Here is a link to current road conditions in Oklahoma if you are headed that way this morning,

Joe Pennington December 25, 20126:07 am

If you are traveling to the west this morning roads are already becoming slick and hazordous in the Oklahoma City area.

I-40 westbound is closed at I-35 in Oklahoma City. Freezing rain is falling and there is a 21 car wreck that has closed I-40 in Oklahoma City.

Joe Pennington December 25, 20125:30 am

Good morning and Merry Christmas!!

We are starting off early this morning with a rain and sleet mix across SE Oklahoma. There will be a mix this morning of sleet and snow across the area this morning before a switch to snow this afternoon.

Snow totals will be highest south of I-40 this afternoon. There will be a sharp drop off in snow totals from north to south.

More updates to come this morning and afternoon.

This is a look at the GFS model snow accumulation.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20129:46 pm

Another big change in this evenings data is to increase the amount of snow expected for Little Rock and Central Arkansas should the farther south track hold

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20129:43 pm

Most new data is also suggesting a slower onset… perhaps closer to 3pm instead of Noon

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20129:41 pm

Evening run of GFS model also shifts low south… looks like the heavy snow will start about I40 if this model is to be believed. Still waiting on a few more models to generate to know for sure. Most things pointing to far less in NWA and less in RV. Still looking like a high impact event in the Ouachitas based on this data though.

Models seem to be having the most difficulting deciding where the low will pivot from a SE movement to a NE movement.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20129:04 pm

If there’s any change in all of the model runs this evening… it’s that most of them show a shift southward which would decrease snow in Northwest Arkansas and keep very high totals across the Ouachitas.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20128:54 pm

Evening model run of the North American Model is also agressively south with the track. This could be much lower totals for NWA with the highest totals focused on the Waldron/Mena area.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20128:47 pm

Interesting how the WSI RPM Model continues to show no snow for our area 16 hours before event onset. Thinking this is underdoing the precip but there is likely a little to be said about a farther south track… I think think some areas locally could see less than a dusting…especially farther north into NWA and NE Oklahoma if the south track verifies.

Alicia Agent December 24, 20126:38 pm

Benton County crews don’t plan to pre-treat the roads ahead of Tuesday’s winter storm. Find out why:

Alicia Agent December 24, 20126:37 pm

Several tons of salt were loaded into trucks at the state highway department’s headquarters in Fort Smith Monday, as crews prepared for a Christmas snow storm. Read about their plans to make roads safer:

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20126:34 pm

Futurecast Data (displayed microcast). I ran the computer model with selected GPS city locations and these are the raw amounts it generated for snowfall. It continues to try and shift some of the heaviest snow southward into the Ouachitas.

New data comes down tonight around 9pm and I’ll have another full update on the LIVE Blog around that time.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20125:54 pm

NWS latest totals also reflect the thinking of higher snow totals from I40 and south.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20125:50 pm

The afternoon run of the North American Model (NAM) continues a slow shift south but it’s more in line with the other major models like the GFS & Euro. The NAM had been a significant outlier but this looks reasonable now. The placement of the heaviest snow is from Fort Smith to Waldron from 6pm-9pm on Christmas Night.

(north of the blue line is snow… althought sometimes freezing rain, sleet, snow, & rain can be found in the vicinity of the blue line… thickness values 5400gpm or the “540 line”)

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20125:43 pm

Here’s the forecast surface chart for 6pm Friday from NOAA… note the intense snow over our area and the position of the low to the southeast. A widespread severe weather event looks likely for Louisiana/Mississippi

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20124:27 pm

Ice accumulations are currently expected to be around .10″ or 1/10th of an inch. Usually .25″ is the threshold for power outages.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20124:25 pm

While most of the models have reached consensus on the storm track… the WSI RPM model is consistantly south… so much so that no snow occurs in NWA and very little in Fort Smith area. It’s the only model that shows the snow so far displaced southward. While it bears watching, right now, we’re expecting the heaviest snow in the Ouachitas and RV area.

NWS did add Benton Co to Winter Storm Warning, but the 4″ criteria may be difficult to obtain if the system does indeed slip southward.

Also of note, new data continues to support freezing rain before the onset of the snow.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20123:56 pm


Garrett Lewis December 24, 20123:28 pm

Winter Warning criteria should stay just below the threshold of “blizzard”. A blizzard is defined by winds of 35mph or greater with visibility of around 1/4 mile or less. Right now we’re thinking some counties could approach blizzard criteria in some area but the wind criteria might not be met as wind are forecast to be around 25-30mph and 1/2 to 1/4 mile visibility.

I’m also concerned about some power outages and interruptions. Strong winds and heavy wet snow are typically a good sign that power will indeed go our for some people on Christmas afternoon.

Garrett Lewis December 24, 20123:25 pm

Latest look at Futurecast Snow Totals still show a high-impact snow event for I40 Corridor with upwards of 6″+ possible

Joe Pennington December 24, 201212:20 pm

While we will deal with a winter storm on Christmas, the Southeast US will deal with a severe weather and tornado outbreak Christmas Day. Keep this in mind if you are planning on traveling in the area highlighted in red.

Joe Pennington December 24, 201212:09 pm

The European model is now coming in for this morning. Just like the model below (GFS) it shows a switchover to snow early afternoon, along with gusty north winds.

Alicia Agent December 24, 201212:06 pm

Below is a list of phone numbers and web sites to check for road conditions in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and surrounding states. Save them if you are traveling this Christmas!

Arkansas (
(501) 569-2374
(800) 245-1672

Oklahoma (
(405) 425-2385
(888) 425-2385

Kansas (
(866) 511-5368

Missouri (
(800) 222-6400

Joe Pennington December 24, 201211:37 am

The brand new run of this morning’s GFS just came in. No major changes. We will start off with rain Christmas morning, then transition to a mix of sleet and rain then all snow. It looks like the snow starts after 12PM. The heaviest snow will occur during the afternoon and the evening.

Alicia Agent December 24, 201211:18 am

Take a peek at the master computer at the AR State Hwy Dept. They’re getting all the plows ready to head out.

Alicia Agent December 24, 201211:11 am

The Benton County Emergency Management Agency staying briefed on the incoming storm

Alicia Agent December 24, 201211:00 am

According to the city of Fayetteville’s transportation division, they will be using beet juice to combat the snow and ice expected on Christmas day! The brown sticky liquid can help melt the snow better than a salty brine. Cities on the east coast have been known to use pickle juice to combat the ice!

Alicia Agent December 24, 201210:25 am

Joe Shipman with the Highway Department in Fort Smith says salt trucks are loaded and ready to go, but they are waiting for the snow storm to hit before they actually get on the roads.

Joe Pennington December 24, 20128:50 am

Currently watching the morning run of the NAM model come in. Doesn’t show many changes to what we have been thinking. It does hold off the switch over to snow till much later in the afternoon….with that said, I would side with the other models, including our own Futurecast, in showing a much faster switchover to snow late morning into the early afternoon.

Joe Pennington December 24, 20127:21 am

New model data will start to roll in starting after 9AM. The GFS and EURO models will come in closer to 11AM and noon. I will start looking through the data and post updates later this morning.

Joe Pennington December 24, 20125:38 am

The Little Rock National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm WARNING for the eastern River Valley.

Most of the area is now covered under a Winter Storm WARNING for Christmas Day.

Joe Pennington December 24, 20124:26 am

Joe Pennington December 24, 20124:09 am

As expected, parts of the area now upgraded to WINTER STORM WARNING. Graphic and counties coming soon.

Joe Pennington December 24, 20123:55 am

Quick update shortly before 4AM. I’m looking over the late night model runs now, and the thinking really hasn’t changed much from what Garrett was forecasting on Sunday. Accumulating, heavy and blowing snow on the way for Christmas. We may see an upgrade to Winter Storm Warnings this morning. I will continue to update the LIVE BLOG all morning.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 201210:36 pm

Joe will be in overnight tonight looking at some of the new data that comes in around 3am and 9am and will have updates in the morning and here on this Live-Blog.

Should be interesting to see where the heaviest band will occur and the forecast will become clearer in the next 24 hours.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20129:48 pm

National Weather Service Product that shows their forecast snow amounts. *NOTE: Don’t focus too much on the numbers… they can and WILL change… but it gives you an idea about the current thinking of where the heaviest snow band could set up. Which… at the moment… appears to be in and around I40.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20129:44 pm

Latest Futurecast showing forecast snow totals with the model called “Adonis”. A lot can still change but the forecast continues to support a significant winter storm with widespread travel impacts on Christmas Day.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20129:30 pm

Primary time for heaviest snow is 1pm Tue to 9pm Tue. That’s when the low is closest to our area and the greatest lift and moisture will be avialable for accumulating snowfall. Might try to adjust your travel plans accordingly.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20129:26 pm

Latest Futurecast is in… Doesn’t appear to change much from previous model cycles and continues the trend of heavy snow starting sometime around Noon on Christmas Day.

It does look like there could be some rain possibly even mixing with sleet on Christmas morning but the bulk of the storm system arrives in the afternoon and especially the evening.

Travel should start to have trouble areas as early as Noon due to high snow rates and blowing snow.

Futurecast is starting to depict an area of freezing rain in the River Valley before the all snow onset… not anticipating widespread ice storm impacts at this time, but we’ll need to watch this closely. It’s related to the depth of the cold air mass. Sometimes the shallow cold air is delayed moving over the Ozarks, also… if it’s too shallow along the leading edges with moisture overrunning we could indeed see some freezing rain before the changeover.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20129:07 pm

This is a map produced by the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center which shows the liklihood of a 4+ snow. There’s a 40% or greater chance for an occurance… inside the green circle is where we expect to see the highest totals Christmas Day.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20128:59 pm

The evening North American Model appears to be more in line with the other two preferred models this evening. The GFS & Euro… the NAM is heavier with snow in our area. Along and north of the blue line is frozen precip

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20128:51 pm

Interesting look at this evening’s RPM model which takes most of the accumulation south. When forecasting winter weather we look at all of the models and weigh them based on consistancy as well as how well they line up with the pattern on the large scale to see if makes sense. This far south seems a little bit too far south-in my opinion. Don’t think the upper level winds are strong enough to dig it that far south.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20126:47 pm

New model data becomes available around 9pm tonight.

The high resolution models won’t be available until tomorrow but it will be interesting to see how consistent or inconsistent the storm track evolves. I’m particularly interested in comparing the water vapor position of the low pressure to the models initial position of the low pressure.

I’m also watching the ridge in Eastern Canada which should act as a block and force this system to dig farther south. Subtle changes in the big scale often have direct and major changes in the small scale.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20126:18 pm

The NAM or North American Model has been a significant outlier with heavier snow and is farther north with the track. We don’t believe this model has a good handle on the track.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20126:13 pm

Just to show some of the differences in the computer model runs… here’s a look at the same model’s estimates of snow totals from this morning and this afternoon.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20125:11 pm

Futurecast depiction of snow at 7pm Christmas Day

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20125:08 pm

NWS Image showing the regional impacts.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20124:55 pm

The main challenge with the forecast is trying to narrow down where the heaviest snow will occur. There’s going to be a 100-200 mile long/25-50 mile wide band of very intense snow somewhere across a 4 state area. That band will produce totals around 6-8″ of snow.

The band of heaviest snow will set-up along and northwest of the center of the low pressure’s track.

Right now, it’s narrowed down from about Wichita to Joplin down south to McAlester to Shreveport area. Anywhere in the middle is fair game for heavy snow.

*It’s important to know that the track WILL change and the no doubt there will be people in our area with as little as a dusting. As Christmas gets closer the track will become more apparent and the forecast accuracy will increase. Still lots of uncertaintly at the moment in regards to the track, but high confidence that someone in AR/OK/MO will get a major winter storm on Christmas Day. At the moment… the heaviest band of snow favors the I40 corridor including Fort Smith.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20124:33 pm

There could be a narrow corridor of freezing rain in central Arkansas. I’m thinking it could be somewhere around the Hot Springs to Little Rock area. Right now, it looks primarily like a rain changing to all snow for much of our area. Could be some freezing rain for a short duration in and around I40

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20124:27 pm

Latest run of Futurecast changes the rain to snow around Noon or 1pm on Christmas Day.

Garrett Lewis December 23, 20124:22 pm

The reason Benton County is not included in the watch is because by definition a “winter storm watch/warning” is issued when snow is expected to be 4″ or greater. Snow totals in Benton Co are expected to be less than 4″ at the moment.

Within the Winter Storm Watch area snow totals could exceed 7″.