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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