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The Crippling Arkansas Ice Storm of December 2000

| 2:00 am December 27, 2008 | Comments (5)

On this date in 2000, a major ice storm put 590,000 people from New Mexico to Arkansas in the dark. Arkansas and Oklahoma were the hardest hit.

In Oklahoma, the Governor declared the state a disaster area. In Little Rock, state government was completely shut down. The State of Arkansas was in the midst of its second major winter storm in less than two weeks. The combined event is believed to be the worst natural disaster in Arkansas history.

A major long-term ice storm developed Christmas Day and continued through the early morning hours of December 27th. Warm, moist air from the southwest was running up and over a shallow layer of cold air near the surface. This is the classic setup for freezing rain.

Western sections of the state were coated by as a layer of ice up to 3 inches thick, with up to inches elsewhere across the state. The effects were devastating. 300,000 Arkansans were without power for several days. Many water systems, including the City of Hot Springs were unable to operate because of no electricity. The Governor was forced to communicate with some parts of the state by HAM radio since communications were so severely disrupted. The National Guard had to be called out to assist residents. Humvees had to be pressed into service as ambulances because of icy roads. FEMA representatives coming to assess the December 12-13 winter storm were unable to fly in as the Little Rock National Airport was closed for nearly two days.

Warnings for the event were very effective and preparations were excellent, but the event was still very crippling because of its severity.

One of the most dramatic images from the ice storm was of network reporters in pitch black darkness in the middle of beautiful downtown Hot Springs after the storm.

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  1. Josh in Talladega says:

    I remember this ALL TO WELL! The first week of January in 2001 we pulled in a 142 hour work week. Not two weeks, but ONE!

    We were set to Pine Bluff to rest briefly in a gym with kid mattresses that had no heat. We “tried” to sleep for a few then went straight to Hot Springs. Spent atleast a week in Hot Springs. We got the major transmission line up to get the whole town power. It was straight over the only mountain in Hot Springs, and it was COLD! I know one morning the high was 8, and the windchill was around -4 and we worked 20+ hour days in the 4 or 5″ of ice then we had to work through the blowing snow that put down about another 3 inches of snow on top of the ice. I have not seen an ice storm that bad since (but I heard the last two years in the Midwest was pretty bad or worse than this one). I got home in time to have to Christmas shop on Christmas Eve (imagine the nightmare) open my presents on Christmas and then I got the call that we were going back to Arkansas. I also broke a relationship off, and quit 3 weeks later to take a job back home. The life of a traveling utility lineman……lol

    I’ve worked every major storm you can think of since 99, and the best one was Arkansas. Even though our life was hell over in Hot Springs, Mt. Ida, and Black Springs (population 100 then, took us 2 weeks to get their power on, it was that BAD!) I have to say they were the friendliest customers I’ve EVER met. They gave us great great food, drinks (the ones we cant drink at work…lol) and about any and everything else. I dont remember anyone griping about their power and were leaving us signs thanking us and clapping and cheering and that helps the process. Alot forget we were states away from home working in sometimes a state you’ve NEVER been in before and you are working 100+ hours a week. Places like Miami was horrible as their power was supposed to be on yesterday. So I have nothing for them. But Arkansas felt like home except for the few oil rigs, and alot of FLATLANDS that was nothing but mush under the grass.

  2. Caroline says:

    Josh in Talladega. Hi. I just wanted to write because of the recent (late January 2009) ice storms in Arkansas. Of course, just over a month ago, in the midwest (Indiana) we had 4 or 5 days of power out and trees splitting in two or three pieces, straight down the main trunks. Over half of our trees were affected in Fort Wayne, I would estimate. 120,000 plus were without power. Two ways we handled the 5 days with below zero temps, and windchills up to colder than 20 below zero. 1) People stayed with other people, or some went to hotels, but most of those were full. 2) Those with firesplaces or gas burners kept those going (even though you would think the open gas burners on the cooking surfaces would not have been safe – but it worked out pretty well. If the homes had no heat then the pets’ drinking water would freeze over completely in the home (in a short time). So my point is people need each other. We only had about 200 to 250 people going to our main shelter, cots in a big hall, and food provided at our War Memorial Coliseum; also some went to South Side High School. But the reason you did not see many people there was that people took other people, mostly relatives, into their homes. By the way, we cheered the electric and phone people, when they came through the neighborhoods too! Although we had to all be patient, we knew the service people were working very hard and long hours. Thank you everyone for taking care of us in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was “the worst ice storm” in my Mom’s lifetime, and she is in her 80s. God bless you – stay safe and away from wires. -Caroline in Northern Indiana

  3. lauryn says:

    Yeah, this ice storm sucked. We’re supposed to have another one hit the night of October 29. Cool.

  4. Richie says:

    I was living in a house with no gas in the years 1998-2002. So, yeah, I was FREEZING when the Ice Storm hit on Christmas Day, 2000, in Hot Springs, AR.

  5. Chris says:

    I lived through that whole mess… It took us almost a month here in Mena to get power fully restored to everyone… It was a *bad* storm.

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