Cleon Fails to Pack a Big Punch

Thursday, December 12, 2013
Layers of ice, sleet and snow made for excellent sledding conditions over the weekend, as this young lady demonstrated Saturday in Piggott.

Winter storm Cleon rolled out of the plains states Thursday, leaving a layer of ice and snow in its path as it pushed through the region on Friday. But, local impact from the dangerous winter storm was much less than forecasters had feared, thanks to less freezing rain and more sleet and snow. But, despite the presence of wide-spread power outages and such, poor road conditions forced the cancellation of both Rector and Piggott schools five days as of Thursday, Dec. 12.

The early forecasts on Cleon called for a much larger amount of freezing rain, the same recipe which crippled the region in early 2009. But, thankfully the precipitation turned to sleet and snow much earlier than expected, posing fewer problems for power lines and limbs but forcing the cancellation of school, sporting events and other activities.

For the residents of Piggott and Rector, no power outages were reported although several locations in rural portions of Clay County did experience a loss of electricity for a period of time.

Statewide the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas reported 35,000 outages at the peak of the storm, and as of the weekend about 21,000 of those customers were still without power. The hardest hit areas included the Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative of Ozark and the Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative of Mena.

As of Tuesday morning about 3,000 outages remained in the area, down from the approximate 7,300 reported Monday morning.

Entergy reported scattered outages in Lawrence, Craighead and Poinsett counties along with more than 400 in Crittenden County and over 700 in Mississippi County. But, by Sunday evening less than 20 customers were still without power in the East Poinsett County communities of Marked Tree, Tyronza and Turrell.

The city of Piggott, which owns and operates its own electric department, suffered none of the ill effects of the ice storm of 2009 thanks in part to an aggressive preventative program.

"We really dodged the bullet here in Piggott, but I think a lot of it was our tree trimming program," noted utilities manager Brian Haley. "We've been a lot more aggressive with the program since the ice storm of 2009, and thanks to that we had no weather related outages during this last storm."

Haley noted the tree maintenance effort is not the most popular program, but feels it really paid dividends during the winter storm. "

We always try to be mindful of our customers when it comes to trimming trees and limbs, but it really paid off for us," he added. "Hopefully, everyone will remember that this summer when they're not too happy about us wanting to trim a tree or limbs, thinking it will make it ugly--it could save them from being without power for a half a day, or a day, next winter."

Haley did note some Piggott customers may have noticed some flickering of the lights, but explained this was related to a problem at Kennett. "There was a small issue with our SWPA feeder line both Friday and Saturday, as ice build-up and strong winds caused a few flickers," he added. "We're on a dual-feed from Kennett and from New Madrid, so when the main line from Kennett started having problems they switched us to the direct line from New Madrid and it took care of the issue."

Residents of the city of Rector also maintained power throughout the weather event, thanks in part to improvements and updates made since the last ice storm. But, like everyone else in a large part of the nation, faced ice slickened roads and streets.

In response, city workers were out in force over the weekend clearing the streets and treating intersections. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department was busy maintaining the state right-of-ways.

Of course, winter storm Cleon did force the cancellation of the Rector Christmas Parade and postponement of the Piggott Christmas Fest and Parade on Saturday. Other events, including the Rector High School HOF Classic basketball tournament, also fell victim to the weather.

As a result of the bad weather, the Clay County Arts Council's Night of Chocolate fundraiser was postponed to this Saturday, Dec. 14 and the Piggott Area Chamber of Commerce Christmas Fest has been rescheduled for Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15. More details may be found in separate stories in this edition.

Information on any further re-scheduling of events, or permanent cancellations, will be included in future issues of the CCTD or may be found at cctimesdemocrat.com

In many parts of the state of Arkansas, and the nation, winter storm Cleon will be remembered for the magnitude of its impact. But, thankfully for local residents it will likely go down in history as just a mild inconvenience.

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