Arkansas Ice Storm — Christmas, 2000

We decided to visit Kathy's parents in central Arkansas for Christmas, 2000. Maybe see some snow and enjoy a real winter for a change.

They already had some snow on the ground and expected a little more. The temperature had been below freezing for over a week, so the ground and all the ponds were frozen solid (as Bryan incautiously demonstrates here).

The plan was to drive up there the day before Christmas in clear weather, open presents the next morning while it snowed all day, then spend one more clear, warm day to let the snow melt so we could drive down to my parents' house for New Years weekend. That was the plan.

It almost happened that way. Christmas Eve day was fine. Sunny but cold, and we got to hike around our land, 35 acres on a mountain top near Clinton, north of Little Rock.

We saw deer and armadillo, lots of birds and lots of ice. The perfect Christmas holiday, so far.

But then, instead of snow on Christmas day, we got freezing rain, a fine misty liquid rain that froze to ice the moment it touched anything. And it continued to come down all day. And the next day. And the trees started to fall down. And the power lines went on the third day. And our mountain top became glazed with an inch of hard ice.

We finally put the SUV in 4WD, strewed salt on the frozen driveway, and slid down the mountain to the main highway, which had been sanded and salted and was still barely passable.

The trip south was more of an adventure than we had bargained for. The storm had moved off to the east, and we weren't sure how far south the freeze line extended. In an effort to avoid more ice, we decided to high tail it home to Texas rather than trying to drive through Tennessee and northern Alabama. (sorry Mom and Dad!).

Arkansas was like a war zone. Wrecked cars and eighteen wheelers, completely encased in ice, scattered about the highways, tow trucks and emergency vehicles with chains and blinking lights, huge trees down across the traffic lanes, entire cities with no power, traffic lights not functioning, and gas stations out of gas or unable to pump it.

At the Texas state line, it started to rain again, though the temperature was slightly above freezing. We had intended to stay the night in Texarkana, but the whole city was without power. No gas. People crying into pay phones. Convoys of electric utility trucks with their search lights pointing skyward, tracing the frozen lines.

We headed due south to try to outrun the freeze line. North Texas wasn't much better than Arkansas had been. Still lots of downed trees, but not quite as much ice on the roads. Marshall Texas had power and gasoline, but all the hotels were full of ice storm refugees. We called ahead to Longview and drove another half hour before we finally found a warm room to sleep in.

Next day, we woke to find the roads were still clear -- no ice or snow in Longview. We were lucky because just a few miles due west of our hotel, some of the southern suburbs of Dallas had gotten six inches of snow overnight. We drove on in to Austin, seeing downed trees and broken limbs all the way to Nacogdoches and beyond. Most of the really bad ice missed the piney woods of East Texas, which is good because the pine trees don't usually survive it. This picture reminds me of a Rodin sculpture. The Three Shade Trees?