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Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: Winter Weather

Once again, we are seeing the wild weather swings in Arkansas that often mark the late weeks of fall. With our State getting its first full taste of winter this week, I want to recap how inclement conditions are handled in state government. We always strive for a careful balance between preserving the services your tax dollars pay for while also protecting the safety and well-being of our state employees.

When my office announces delays or closings of state offices, those announcements are strictly for offices only in the Little Rock Metropolitan Area covering Central Arkansas. In other parts of the State, area and district supervisors work with their agency directors to determine when offices are to remain fully open, delay opening, or close. This is because weather conditions can vary greatly from North-to-South Arkansas, and there is rarely one directive that properly fits the entire State.

On mornings that start normally and then experience inclement weather later in the day, the decisions when or if to close offices is left entirely to state agencies. My office will not issue directives after 10:00 a.m. when offices have been opened to begin the day.

While Arkansas television stations, radio stations and Web services help distribute information about closings, you can directly obtain inclement weather information yourself via the Internet or your telephone. The State’s Web portal, Arkansas.gov, will display status updates when weather impacts state offices in the Little Rock Metro. You can also sign up to have e-mail alerts sent directly to you through Arkansas.gov, as well. If you prefer to stay notified by phone, call 501-682-2423, which spells out as 682-2-ICE. That number will have the latest status regarding Central Arkansas offices and their inclement weather policies.

Ice storms are especially treacherous, not only because they cause poor driving conditions, but because of the extended power outages that can accompany them. Utility companies all across Arkansas pledge to keep Arkansans up to date on restoration efforts when outages occur. However, this is when our people’s traditional sense of community becomes especially important. Be aware of those living near you who may not have access to generators or fireplaces if power remains out for an extended period. This is particularly important for elderly residents in our neighborhoods and rural areas.

The most unsettling aspect about Arkansas’s weather for most of us is its looming uncertainty. During severe weather season, we know when conditions are ripe for tornadoes, but never exactly where and when they could strike. In winter, that uncertainty takes a different form, but can still create widespread anxiety. Often, only a few degrees above or below the freezing mark can make the difference between a cold rain, a blanket of snow, an ice storm or a mixture of all of the above. Calm preparation and advanced planning remain our best actions. Regardless of the weather that comes our way this season, your state agencies will remain actively involved to keep our people safe and keep Arkansas functioning.