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Winter weather slams area, more expected

by Janelle Jessen, Marc Hayot | February 17, 2021 at 5:30 a.m.
Katrina Reimer/John Brown University Snow and freezing temperatures turned the fountain at John Brown University into an ice sculpture on Monday. Winter weather is predicted to continue throughout the week.

Snow and several days of single digit and sub-zero temperatures in Siloam Springs and across the region caused power shortages and closed schools and businesses on Monday and Tuesday.

At Siloam Springs Municipal Airport, snow began to fall at 6:56 a.m. on Sunday morning and continued through Monday evening, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website, weather.gov. Temperatures reached a high of 18 degrees on Saturday afternoon, before dipping into the single digits starting on Saturday evening and continuing through Monday afternoon. On Monday night, temperatures were below zero, with a low of negative 7 degrees recorded around 11 p.m. Monday evening. Wind chills were consistently in the negative double digits, peaking at negative 22 on both Monday and Tuesday, the site states.

Southwest Power Pool (SPP) customers, including Siloam Springs residents, were asked to conserve electricity, starting on Sunday evening and continuing through Tuesday. City officials also asked large commercial entities such as Gates, Simmons and Walmart to consider shutting down to conserve power, according to communications manager Holland Hayden.

The city receives electricity from Grand River Dam Authority, an SPP member. Siloam Springs experienced planned outages on Monday and Tuesday to conserve energy as SPP fluctuated between emergency alert level one and level three, the highest level.

The SPP regulates power in a 14-state region, including parts of Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma, according to Mike Ross, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations.

"We expected as far back as Thursday of last week that today would be a new winter peak for us," Lanny Nickell, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a press conference on Monday.

Siloam Springs city offices were closed on Monday for Presidents Day. The city opened at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a post on the city website. West Siloam Springs posted on the town's website that the town meeting would be postponed from Feb. 16 to Feb. 22.

Siloam Springs Schools pivoted to remote instruction on Monday and Tuesday, according to Superintendent Jody Wiggins. The schools were also closed on Wednesday and Thursday of last week because of inclement weather and were closed on Friday for teacher professional development. This year, schools are able to go remote without having to use inclement weather or alternative methods of instruction (AMI) days, he said. Teachers were posting assignments online Tuesday with the hope that power outages would be short lived and spread around, he said.

A sprinkler line burst at the high school because of cold temperatures on Monday, causing flooding that extended through the art wing into the main offices and cafeteria, Wiggins said. Maintenance staff worked in the cold to squeegee the water out and the school called a professional carpet cleaning service to remove the remaining water from the carpets, he said. A second waterline burst at the middle school on Tuesday, Wiggins said.

With more winter weather in the forecast, Wiggins encouraged parents to watch the districts website, social media and other local media outlets for updates on closings for the rest of the week.

John Brown University has also pivoted to remote instruction for all of its campuses through Wednesday, according to Julie Gumm, director of marketing and communication. The school experienced a blackout on Tuesday morning for about 45 minutes, but the university had prepared students for that possibility on Monday, she said.

Siloam Springs police reported two vehicle accidents as of Tuesday morning, one at Main and Broadway on Monday and one at Cheri Whitlock and North Hico Street, according to Captain Derek Spicer.

Fire Chief Jeremey Criner said one person from the accident at Cheri Whitlock and North Hico was transported to the hospital and one fall injury on Sunday led to another person being transported to the hospital.

West Siloam Springs Police Chief Larry Barnett did not immediately respond to requests for accident updates.

As of Tuesday morning, Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma were under a winter storm warning until 6 a.m. Thursday and an additional four to six inches of snow was forecast in the area, according to the National Weather Service.

Marc Hayot/Herald-Leader Snow fell on Siloam Springs on Sunday and continued on into Tuesday. The winter weather has caused power fluctuations in the city, but only a few accidents occurred.
Marc Hayot/Herald-Leader Snow fell on Siloam Springs on Sunday and continued on into Tuesday. The winter weather has caused power fluctuations in the city, but only a few accidents occurred.
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