Northeast Arkansas struggles under blanket of ice - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

Northeast Arkansas struggles under blanket of ice

JONESBORO, AR (WMC-TV) - Thousands of people in northeast Arkansas were still without power Thursday, under a blanket of ice from a winter storm that rivals any in recent memory.

Even WMC-TV 5 sister station KAIT 8 in Jonesboro wasn't spared from the storm's wrath.

"We started talking in the middle of the storm, 'Wow, this could be worse than the 2000 storm,' " KAIT meteorologist Ryan Vaughan said.

Utility officials said they met the storm with a feeling of dread.

"You knew the ice was coming, and then when it got here, it's like, 'Oh no, what kind of damage we gonna have?,' " said Monty Williams of the Craighead Electrical Company.

The damage left thousands of customers in the dark.

One customer, Tommy Duffel, said his family was among the many setting up in area shelters, trying to keep warm and get a warm meal.

"The Red Cross furnishes the food that you see here, and we do the cooking," Duffel said.

While victims were struggling to stay warm, their source for news was struggling to stay on the air.  Thirty-six hours into the storm, KAIT's emergency generator broke down.

"At that time, the TV station went completely dark," KAIT General Manager Tim Ingram said.

So, station employees parked a live truck outside their back door and ran a cable in to the newsroom using a camera and two lights. Sometimes, those lights were flashlights

"Ninety-nine percent of our staff didn't have power at home," Ingram said. "We had families spending the night at the TV station."

Despite it all, storm victims say there's a bright side.

"I mean, it could be worse," Duffel said. "I mean, bombs could be falling on us!"

Total outages for the entire state of Arkansas remained at more than 350,000 early Thursday evening - nearly a quarter of the state's utility customers.


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