A strong cold front is expected to enter the area later tonight (Wednesday) and bring with it much colder temperatures and the threat of freezing rain, sleet or snow by the end of the week, according to a special weather statement issued earlier this week by the National Weather Service.
Highs are expected to tumble from the middle 60s Wednesday to the middle 30s and below for the remainder of the week, according to the NWS. Lows are expected to dive into the 20s and teens. If the forecast holds up, this blast of Arctic air will bring the coldest weather so far this fall.
Meanwhile, with the forecast in mind, officials with the city of Paris, Logan County and the Paris School District said Monday they were prepared to deal difficult with driving conditions possible with this front.
"We’ve got our sand trucks and road graders ready," Logan County Judge Gus Young said. "We bought sand two weeks ago. So, we’re as ready as we can be with the equipment we have."
"We’ve got sand and snow and ice melt stored and ready," said Larry Robberson, Street Department supervisor for the city of Paris. "The sand truck stays loaded this time of year. We have plenty of ice and snow melt and we’ve had a large quantity of that for the last few years. We stay ready and try to stay prepared."
Paris School Superintendent Wayne Fawcett said he and Transportation Director Kevin Conkin will monitor the weather forecast throughout the week and will likely be on the road early Thursday.
"Usually Kevin and I are up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to go out and look at the road situation," Fawcett said Monday. "Based on the forecast as of today, we’ll probably be okay for the start of school Thursday, but we’ll monitor the situation throughout the day. If we’ve got snow and ice Thursday night, we could make a decision about Friday then. If not, we’ll be out early again on Friday."
Fawcett said he generally makes a decision about closing school between 5:30 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. "if not earlier." The decision is communicated first to school employees and then Fawcett notifies the media. The decision is also posted on the school’s website, its Facebook page and on Twitter.
According to the NWS special weather statement issued Monday, residents should prepare for the possibility of "winter weather and much colder temperatures by the end of the week. A frontal boundary will move through the state on Wednesday, stalling out just to the south of Arkansas by Thursday. Low level moisture moving up north of the front, along with several upper level systems interacting with the boundary, will allow for precipitation to become fairly widespread by late Thursday. Much colder air will move into the state behind the front, spreading across the state on Friday and Friday night. Once the cold air moves in, it is likely that much of the state could stay below freezing for several days."
According to the statement, precipitation will begin as rain and transition into freezing rain, sleet or snow.
"Rain is expected to transition to snow in the northwest portion of Arkansas by Friday morning," according to the NWS. "During the day Friday, precipitation over central Arkansas is expected to transition to a sleet and freezing rain mix. By the evening hours, precipitation in most areas — with the exception of the southeast — is expected to be nearly all snow. Moisture will be moving out of the region on Friday night, with precipitation diminishing and coming to an end by Saturday morning."
But that break in precipitation will be brief, according to the NWS.
"Precipitation is expected to develop again by Saturday night. Precipitation should be all snow in the northwest, with a wintry mix central and south."
However, the NWS statement issued Monday carries with it a qualifier.
"Because there is a degree of uncertainty with these systems this far out," the statement reads, "potential impacts of any winter weather are uncertain at this point. The forecast can and likely will change to some degree between now and the end of the week."