Arkansas Weather

The Storm Prediction Center has upgraded the risk of severe weather expected in Arkansas on Sunday.

The center says a section of southwest Arkansas stretching into central Arkansas is now at a moderate risk of severe weather. Little Rock is on the northeast edge of the area most of risk, with forecasters predicting the worst weather in southwest Arkansas, northeast Texas and northwest Louisiana.

The National Weather Service has confirmed Arkansas' first tornado of 2014.

Forecasters in Tulsa, Okla., say an EF1 tornado hit Sunday evening in a rural area of Franklin County in western Arkansas. The weather service says the twister touched down at 8:45 p.m. about 1 mile south-southeast of the community of Vesta before lifting and touching down again in the Peter Pender area.

The weather service says the tornado's path was 5.4 miles long with a maximum width of 450 yards.

After enduring a battering of torrential rains over the weekend, Arkansans may now have to bundle up as a cold front moves through the state bringing the likelihood of freezing weather Monday night. The state rarely feels temperatures drop below freezing in mid-April, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Tabitha Clark, who says a cold front moving in from Canada is causing the mercury in the thermometer to drop.

Cleanup continues after a powerful storm system moved through Arkansas overnight. The hardest hit areas were in south Arkansas.

At Camden Fairview High School, part of the roof was ripped off. Classes were cancelled and school officials have been working to assess damage and determine the quickest ways to make repairs.

Power crews have also been busy. At its peak, Entergy Arkansas spokeswoman Sally Graham says more than 51,000 of its customers were without power.  By mid-afternoon Friday, that was down to about 17,000.

An Arkansas legislative committee is scheduled to hear from state highway officials about their response to a winter storm that left drivers stranded on icy interstates in eastern Arkansas last week.

A joint meeting with both House and Senate members is set for Tuesday to hear from Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett.

Arkansas State Police director Col. Stan Witt is also expected to attend the hearings and answer questions.

Forecasters are predicting a round of freezing precipitation for Arkansas this weekend, though the northern half of the state will likely see the most ice. Jeff Hood, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service said a cold front will begin entering Arkansas from the northwest late Saturday, bringing with it a chance of freezing rain and sleet and thunderstorms farther south.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses remain without electricity after wintry weather hit Arkansas.

Entergy Arkansas says about 38,000 customers were without power Wednesday morning. Garland County had the highest number of outages at more than 5,800. Crittenden County reported more than 4,100 outages and Conway County had about 3,300 outages. Cross County reported more than 3,100 outages.

Outages of more than 2,000 customers were reported in Mississippi, Montgomery and St. Francis counties.

The U.S. Labor Department has given $702,741 to help Arkansas recover from tornadoes and severe storms that hit the state last May and June.

The agency said Wednesday the National Emergency Grant is being given to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, which can hire temporary employees to aid in the cleanup effort.

Labor officials say that, with money released earlier, the grant totals more than $1 million and should cover 61 positions.

Maggie Carroll/ KUAR News

As temperatures continue to change drastically from day to day, people are bundling up to fight the cold. But what about their pets? 

Leaving pets outside in this weather is considered abuse and under city ordinance owners can be taken to court and charged with animal cruelty. Tracy Roark is asking pet owners to keep animals indoors.

"Pets should be part of your family, and you should treat them as part of your family. They have feelings, and they have a heart. When it is cold like this bring them in," said Roark.

Forecasters say Arkansas is still at risk for wildfires despite chilly temperatures with subzero wind chill values in some areas. A red flag warning is in effect in Carroll, Benton, Washington and Madison counties.

The National Weather Service says northwest Arkansas will see strong and gusty winds of up to 35 mph on Friday, along with low humidity values of 15 to 25 percent.

Forecasters warn that the dry vegetation and windy weather will combine to create dangerous wildfire conditions through Friday afternoon.