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It’s time to bundle up again Mountain Home!
A fresh round of snow is headed this way and is set to start falling Thursday after a day of freezing rain on Wednesday.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for most of northern Arkansas including Baxter County and the surrounding areas. The storm is expected to bring anywhere between 2-6 inches of snow and anywhere between half an inch to three quarters of an inch of ice.
The snow and ice accumulation from this week’s storm could create road hazards making travel difficult. Baxter County residents can also expect to face potential power outages after snow and ice begin to accumulate on power lines. Wind gusts could also knock out power over the course of several days in some areas.
“High freezing rain accumulations and several inches of sleet or snow are expected to cause power outages and make travel difficult,” said Meteorologist Zach Holder of the Region 8 Storm Team during a morning segment. “Ice accumulations and 30-40 mile per hour wind gusts on Thursday are expected to be enough to cause power outages for days.”
The National Weather Service has noted that its forecast will change as Thursday approaches, stating “there is still a lot of uncertainty with the forecast.”
Governor Asa Hutchinson announced during his weekly media briefing he would be deploying eight teams of National Guard Units throughout the state to assist with power restoration and support.
The Governor also said he’s spoken to FEMA and the Arkansas Department of Transportation about assistance with the approaching storm. In addition, the Governor signed an Executive Order that will allocate $250,000 in anticipation of recovery efforts.
“I encourage everyone to look at travel plans and minimize those if there is an ice event,” Governor Hutchinson said, “Be prepared and have a basic emergency supply kit along with a family emergency plan.”
The city of Mountain Home and its Office of Emergency Management will open the homeless shelter at Real Life Church in Mountain Home on Wednesday in preparation for the storm.
Real Life Church has set up a system that allows them to convert their Reach Center into a fully functioning homeless shelter during increment weather and freezing conditions.
Their facility is stocked with 40 cots, functioning restrooms and showers, and a laundry service for those homeless that come to the shelter. Food is provided by donations from members of Real Life Church and the Food Bank of North Central Arkansas.
For this year’s first snow spell, the church provided shelter to 19 people. The shelter, which is open from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., works with the Food Bank to provide hot meals, a shower, and warm clothing to those that choose to come in.
“Our congregation has donated blankets, pillows, and food,” said Kirby Brown of Real Life Church on setting the shelter up. “We were able to get them some warmer clothes. We have a shower and laundry available, so we were able to offer a shower, and then we did their laundry for them while they were here.”
The Food Bank also opens its doors to the homeless during extreme weather from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., before transporting those in need to a cot at the Reach Center.
Roughly 50 volunteers, including CareCenter Ministries, who provided security at night, have participated in this year’s opening of Reach Center’s shelter.
Real Life also helps those who came in from the cold with job hunts and file paperwork needed to receive benefits.
Getting a complete picture of the homeless situation in Northern Arkansas and Mountain Home is difficult. Data is sparse and often outdated in this more remote section of the country.
The Arkansas Department of Education is currently tracking 151 homeless people in Baxter County for 2022. On the other hand, the National Alliance to End Homeless, famous for tracking homeless populations in the U.S., tracked 733 homeless individuals across the balance of the state (AR-503), which includes Baxter County, though it’s unclear how many of those individuals are within the county itself.
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has more updated information dating to 2020 but still has gaps in data for Northern Arkansas.
As of 2020, there were currently 2,366 homeless individuals being tracked in Arkansas by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Arkansas has seen a decline in its homeless population since its last major peak of 4,214 homeless individuals in 2012.
For those wishing to volunteer or donate, please call Real Life Church at (870) 424-3483. To contact the Food Bank of North Central Arkansas, please call (870) 499-7565.