LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A winter storm packing freezing rain, sleet and snow slid across Oklahoma and into Arkansas on Christmas Day, setting off a 21-vehicle pileup that tied up two cross-country interstates and killing an Oklahoma woman who was riding in a car on a slippery highway.
Forecasters posted blizzard warnings for northeastern Arkansas, expecting up to 10 inches of snow and 40 mph wind gusts in a band from near Little Rock to the Missouri Bootheel. A blizzard warning for southwestern Oklahoma was dropped — but was replaced by a wind-chill advisory that warned of readings of minus-11.
A multivehicle accident near downtown Oklahoma City slowed traffic on Interstates 35 and 40. A 28-year-old woman died in a crash on U.S. 412 near Fairview.
Power outages mounted rapidly in Arkansas as freezing rain clung to trees and utility lines that snapped as winds gusted above 30 mph. At least 100,000 customers lost electricity. As a changeover from freezing rain to snow swept eastward, the chances of further power disruptions increased.
The snow line reached Little Rock early Tuesday evening, marking the first measurable Christmas Day snowfall in the capital since 1926, according to the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.
Interstate 40 west of Little Rock became slick, forcing numerous motorists to try to find shelter for the night. Jerry Wall, a worker at Love's Travel Stop in Morrilton, ordinarily a 45-minute drive from Little Rock, said the restaurant was packed about 5 p.m.
"All of our booths are full. I can't see an empty parking spot. They're parking on the sides, across the street," Wall said. "It had been sleeting and it's snowing now. It's coming down pretty good."
The business reserved nearby hotel rooms for its workers, Wall said.
In Oklahoma, the large pileup began about 3 a.m. Tuesday when a semitrailer jackknifed on I-40 on a bridge over the Oklahoma River, state Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said. Other vehicles hit the semi and other semis slid into the vehicles, sandwiching them, she said. In all, there were 10 separate crashes involving 21 vehicles and three tractor-trailers.
"Some of them, it took the entire top of the car off, like they slid under a semi," Randolph said.
Amanda Sue Goodman died in a crash in Major County. The OHP report said the two-lane road was snowy about 10 a.m. The SUV Goodman was riding in collided with a tractor-trailer. Another adult and a 4-year-old child in the SUV were ejected from the vehicle and had head, arm and internal injuries.