Northwest Arkansas Is Closed Due to Inclement Weather
There was not a single snowflake falling in Benton County at 2 a.m. Wednesday.
When the alarm went off at 6:15 a.m., I rolled over to look out the French doors, and saw a world of white. The ground was white. The air was white from falling snow. The patio was white. The vehicles were white. The street was white.
By mid-afternoon, two feet of snow covered my back yard. And, as I am snowed inside, I will change the date stamp on my digital camera, which is stuck frozen on 2010.
The Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville closed. Area school districts in Washington and Benton counties closed. Perry Webb of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce posted to his facebook page a photo of an Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department snowplow that was stuck.
The scene likely will be the same on Thursday, as temperatures are not forecast to get above freezing.
Sean Erick Morris, assistant principal at Birch Kirksey Middle School in Rogers, texted students, parents and guardians by 1 p.m. Wednesday to let them know there would be no school on Thursday.
Motorists could not navigate Interstate 540, the four-lane thoroughfare connecting Fort Smith with Fayetteville and running from Fayetteville north nearly to the Arkansas/Missouri state line.
Barricades were placed at the on-ramps to Interstate 540 by 11 a.m., said David Nilles, Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department spokesman. That prevented motorists from entering the highway. However, the highway department left off-ramps open, so motorists could exit the highway to find safety at a hotel, motel, restaurant or attempt to get home.
Even Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. succumbed to Mother Nature on Wednesday.
The headquarters at Eighth Street and South Walton Boulevard in Bentonville was technically open, said Walmart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie. However, employees were not necessarily required to report to that office or the retailer’s other Northwest Arkansas facilities on Wednesday.
“Many of our associates have the capability to work from home,” with company-issued Blackberries and laptops, Hardie said.
She was not aware of any store closures. The Walmart Neighborhood Market along Pauline Whitaker Parkway in western Rogers was open for business on Wednesday, where customers stopped to pick up essentials ranging from Diet Coke and strawberries to laundry soap and cat food.
Some Walmart facilities canceled evening shifts. Hardie said the jewelry and specialty item distribution center in Bentonville was closed during the first and second shifts on Wednesday, along with a return center in Bentonville.
Those snowed in kept friends and family abreast of snow depths and traffic developments with photos and videos.
Orlando Chavez, a shuttle driver for the Holiday Inn & Suites in western Rogers, posted on his facebook page a video of the hotel’s shuttle van being stuck in a long line of traffic along a local road on the way to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
Airport officials announced Wednesday morning that the airport was closed, with no incoming or outgoing flights. That meant flight crews and those who had gone to the terminal hoping to catch a plane had to go back home or to area hotels.
Chavez reported that the hotel shuttle van became stuck in the snow and he awaited a tow truck, but none were available.
“It was tough, never happened to me before. One guy tried to help me with his four-wheel drive truck, pulling with a chain,” but it didn’t work, Chavez posted on facebook.
“Somebody coming from the Walmart distribution center named Jason gave me a ride to Hilton Garden Inn (in Bentonville), then I walked to 52nd Street,” Chavez posted. He referred to a short walk from a hotel along South Walton Boulevard in Bentonville to a street on the Rogers/Bentonville city limits line.
“And, a guy with a four-wheel drive white Jeep, named David, gave me a ride right to the front of the hotel,” the Holiday Inn & Suites, where Chavez works.
“I made it through. I give thanks to the Lord for His help,” Chavez posted.
Jesse Flowers, operations manger of Pinnacle Car Service in Northwest Arkansas, left his Rogers home at about 2 p.m. Wednesday to pick up a client at the airport in Joplin, Mo. The client was scheduled to land at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, but could not due to the snowfall. The car service took a four-wheel drive Cadillac Escalade to Joplin, to give the client a ride home to Bentonville.
Roads were much improved north of the Arkansas/Missouri line, Jesse Flowers said. He reported, at about 3:30 p.m., having clear pavement and driving the speed limit on Missouri highways near Jane.
Lana F. Flowers is a gifted Arkansas reporter who can handle news about Walmart and retail, movie and book reviews, human interest stories, features and anything else you'd care to mention. She lives in Rogers, Ark., with her husband Jesse, daughter Layla, cats Lottie Boots and Emmy, and dog Fuzzy. Send an email -- email@example.com