- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

The first winter storm of 2014 brought ice and as much as 6 inches of snow from southwestern Oklahoma into northwestern Arkansas on Sunday, but overall it was not as severe as meteorologists had feared.

Forecasts had called for as much as 10 inches of snow and a quarter-inch of ice accumulating in some areas.

“Fortunately, the freezing rain threat didn’t pan out as much as we thought it would. It switched over to sleet and snow pretty quickly, so we got lucky on that one,” said meteorologist Marc Austin with the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla.

Roads in the region were slick and hazardous. But despite numerous traffic accidents, including one involving a bus carrying college athletes, there had been no fatalities reported as the storm that entered Oklahoma on Sunday morning moved into Arkansas by Sunday afternoon.

“What we’re dealing with are slide-offs, people that may just lose control and go into a median or into a ditch,” Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said.

“The highway department is doing its job keeping the roads clear,” he added.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported that crews were applying salt and sand to roads across mainly the southern half of the state.

Benton County Emergency Management Director Robert McGowen said a bus carrying 47 people from the Florida State University track and field team skidded off slick Arkansas 112 at Cave Springs but no one on board was injured.

Bob Thomas, FSU associate sports information director, said the bus was taking athletes, coaches and support staff to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport for their flight home when the accident occurred.

“We were making a left-hand turn and the bus began to slide. The back end slid into a ditch and the whole bus tilted to the left,” Thomas said.

“And then we kind of came to a precarious stop somewhere in the 45- to 60-degree angle. We all moved to the right side of the bus and waited for police, fire and rescue to get there.”

The team had taken part in the weekend’s Razorback Invitational meet at the University of Arkansas in nearby Fayetteville.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. George Brown said numerous accidents but no fatalities were reported in his state.

About a dozen flights to and from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport were cancelled at airports in Little Rock, northwestern Arkansas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, according to the airports’ websites.

The storm also delayed the arrival of a flight carrying about 60 Oklahoma National Guard aviators home from a deployment to Afghanistan and led officials to cancel a formal ceremony to welcome them home.

Snowfall amounts of up to 6 inches were reported in Lawton, in southwestern Oklahoma, and up to 4 inches fell in Fayetteville and Harrison in the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas, according to weather service meteorologists.

There were no reports of significant power outages or damage to homes or businesses.

“I don’t think we’ve had significant enough accumulation for that,” said Austin, the meteorologist in Norman.

As the storm system was moving out of the region, forecasters said at least two more storm systems were moving toward the state and were expected to arrive during the coming week.

“It’s going to be a pretty active week. Tomorrow (Monday) night into Tuesday, another system is going to be moving through, bringing more wintry precipitation, mostly snow, maybe some sleet and freezing rain,” according to Joe Sellers, a meteorologist with the weather service in Tulsa, which covers eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas.

In Arkansas, John Robinson, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, said freezing rain and sleet was expected across northern Arkansas late Monday and into Tuesday, then the next storm system will reach the state by Friday.

“We’re almost certainly going to have winter weather in the state, but the exact timing and precipitation types are unknown at this time,” Robinson said.


Associated Press reporter Christine Armario in Miami contributed to this report.



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