The Little Rock office of the National Weather Service warns that a significant winter storm is expected over the entire state Wednesday and Wednesday night.
A strong arctic frontal boundary will move across the state tonight and early Wednesday morning. Temperatures will drop sharply behind the front. Most areas will start out in the 50s and 60s this evening. By Wednesday morning, however, the far north and northwest should be below freezing. By mid-day, the freezing line is expected to be close to I-40 and the northern portion of the Ouachita Mountains. Freezing temperatures should be seen in southern Arkansas around late afternoon.
Moisture with this system is mainly post-frontal…with precipitation increasing in coverage after the front passes through. Precipitation should make a fairly rapid transition to sleet, then snow in the north, mainly between 6 AM and 10 AM. Over the central portion, the transition is expected between 10 AM and 3 PM, and in the south mainly after 3 PM. There will be more variation in precipitation type the further south you go. Over the central and south, there will likely be a period of freezing rain before things transition to sleet and snow. Precipitation should come to an end in the late night and early morning hours Thursday.
This winter storm is expected to produce measurable sleet and snowfall in all areas, with the highest amounts from north central into eastern Arkansas. At this point, it looks as though the highest amounts could exceed five inches. The central portion will see a longer period of sleet…with possibly a half inch to an inch or so before transitioning to snow. This is including the Little Rock metropolitan area.
The period of freezing rain will be longest in the southeastern third of the state, where accumulations of one tenth to one quarter inch will be possible, with a few locations closer to the delta region of southeast Arkansas seeing some higher amounts.
With the sleet and snow accumulations, there are likely to be travel and utility issues. This will be especially true in areas that receive higher ice accumulations, and sleet and snow on top of that. Another thing that will increase the likelihood of utility issues will be the winds behind the front, which will be rather gusty through Thursday morning. Winds will be strongest in eastern and southeast Arkansas.
Cold temperatures will continue through the end of the week. It is quite likely that areas with the thickest snow pack could stay below freezing on Thursday. The coldest temperatures are expected Thursday night, with temperatures falling into the teens in much of the state. Near-record overnight lows are possible, with some locations over the central and east coming within a few degrees of all-time record lows for March.
As always, please keep in mind that this information is based on the latest model data. Any change in the speed of the approaching frontal system could delay or speed up the transition to wintry precipitation.
National Weather Service meteorologists will continue to closely monitor this potential winter weather situation, and provide detailed and updated forecasts accordingly.