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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

The Christmas Storm

Posted Thursday, January 3, 2013, at 10:11 AM

Every December, as Christmas approaches, Arkansans speculate about the weather. They wonder if this will be the year we'll see snow on the 25th. White Christmases are rare in Arkansas, especially from Little Rock to points south. Not only did it snow on Christmas Day this year, but we also witnessed a winter storm of historic proportions. We will be coping with the aftereffects of this storm well into the new year.

While snow was expected, the amount of sleet and freezing rain that preceded it was not. This coated trees, roads and power lines with ice before the record snowfall began. Little Rock experienced the second-biggest single-day December snowfall in its recorded history, and finished with just over 10 inches on the ground. Parts of West-central and Northeast Arkansas saw as much as 15 inches of snow. Meanwhile, the Interstate 540 corridor in Northwest Arkansas, often more susceptible to winter weather, received little or no precipitation from the storm.

With the storm having moved on, the biggest concern in Arkansas continues to be power outages. More than 200,000 homes and businesses lost power, and some utility customers in the hardest-hit areas will not regain power for a week or more. The unexpected scale of damage to utility infrastructure drew comparisons to the 2000 ice storm, which also started on Christmas night.

On Dec. 26, I declared a statewide disaster declaration. I also issued a proclamation easing federal regulations for out-of-state utility crews operating in Arkansas. This has helped facilitate the thousands of additional personnel marshaled to restore power to households coping with sub-freezing temperatures.

As always in instances of severe weather, the Arkansas National Guard answered the call to help our citizens deal with treacherous conditions. When the storm was at its peak, guardsmen were dispatched in Pulaski and Faulkner Counties to help MEMS ambulance crews reach patients trapped by the weather. Guardsmen have also been in Garland County clearing roads clogged by icy debris.

Arkansans always act of their volition to help each other, and this storm has been no exception. We've heard stories of people providing food, shelter and electricity for neighbors in the dark, offering equipment and labor to clear debris, or providing a line to pull vehicles out of ditches. The giving spirit of our citizens has shown through as it always does. This is not the kind of generosity we expected to need this Christmas, but it was needed and appreciated to assist Arkansans faced with unexpected perils.

Sadly, this bout of severe weather resulted in tragic loss of life on icy roadways and widespread accounts of property damage. We will continue monitoring the recovery and anticipate additional requests for assistance. This was the most intensive December snowstorm Central Arkansas has seen since 1963. We are hopeful that our weather will remain calmer for the immediate future. However, our preparation and resources will have us at the ready if Mother Nature has other plans.

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Gov. Mike Beebe (D) was first elected to the position in 2007 after serving in the statehouse. Born in Amagon, Arkansas, in 1946, the Governor earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Arkansas State University in 1968, and completed law school at the University of Arkansas in 1972, while serving in the U.S. Army Reserve. The parents of three adult children, Governor Beebe and his wife, Ginger, have worked together to improve children's health and literacy throughout the State and have been recognized for their leadership in fighting childhood hunger.
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