- Associated Press - Monday, February 3, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Forecasters say Arkansas could see its 13th bout of snow or ice of the season by the end of the weekend - four times what is seen in a typical winter.

The winter precipitation already has forced changes to school calendars, and the chances for an even longer school year could go up Tuesday and Thursday as more storm systems cross the state.

“We’ve had so many,” said John Robinson, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service at North Little Rock.

Robinson used as his criteria the number of times the state highway department publishes, online, its color-coded map to highlight danger across the Arkansas highway system. A typical year will bring two or three storms per season, but so far this season there have been 10 - dating to Thanksgiving week.

Sunday’s electronic map showed snowy and icy conditions over the northern half of Arkansas, and even Monday afternoon it still showed snow, ice patches or slush across the northern third of the state.

“Typically in winter we’ll get into a pattern of cold weather for two to four weeks, then go two to three weeks without,” Robinson said. There were five bouts of winter weather in December, then four in January.

The winter season started with ice and snow in the days leading to Thanksgiving, when a woman was killed in an accident on an icy bridge. Sunday, an 89-year-old man died in a collision on a snow-covered bridge near Yellville, and a bus carrying the Florida State University track and field team slid off Arkansas 112 after a meet in Fayetteville. No one was injured in the bus crash.

Kimberly Friedman, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said the agency told school districts last month they if they fail to meet for the required 178 school days, they could apply for waivers.

Districts are required to build snow days into their schedule - letting kids have an extra spring day off if they don’t use the snow day, but requiring extra time in the classroom if the snow days are excessive.

Waiver applications are due at the end of the month and hearings are set to open March 13.

To qualify, districts should make up as many of the days as possible, including using the built-in snow days, ditching spring break, working holidays including Good Friday and adding days at the end of the school year.

Forecasters have issued a winter storm warning for Tuesday in northeastern Arkansas, where up to a half-inch of freezing rain or sleet is expected. The rest of western and northern Arkansas could see ice accumulate in smaller amounts.

Snow is expected Thursday, Friday and Saturday as separate disturbances move through.



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