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Socked in by snow, Arkansas facing freezing rain

More than 135,000 people were without electricity in Arkansas on Thursday as the state braced for a bout of freezing rain just days after a massive storm buried much of the state in snow.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - More than 135,000 people were without electricity in Arkansas on Thursday as the state braced for a bout of freezing rain just days after a massive storm buried much of the state in snow.

Tens of thousands of people are being warned they could be without power for a week or more as the rain, which is forecast to hit the northern two-thirds of the state overnight, carries the portent of making the roads even more dangerous.

In Little Rock, enveloped in 10 inches of snow by the Christmas Day storm, more than 57,000 homes and businesses were without lights - prompting many people to abandon their homes for hotels or even shelters.

When the power went out at Betty Reynolds' Little Rock home, her family quickly decided to seek out neighbors as temperatures dropped. But the effort was short-lived.

"We went to stay at a friend's and their power went out," Reynolds said Thursday while walking back to her room at the Peabody hotel in downtown Little Rock.

Carrying a large bag of take-out food, Reynolds explained that her family was hosting friends from Texas for the holiday. All seven of them, plus the family's corgi, are now staying at the Peabody, where the kitchen - which endured $1 million in damage during a Christmas Day fire - was closed Thursday.

She said she was expecting her house to be without power for a week.

Entergy Arkansas, the state's largest electric utility, said it was focusing most of its efforts on communities around Little Rock, but was also trying to get power restored in the city. But it was warning tens of thousands of customers on Thursday that they could be without power until next week.

Road conditions have improved considerably since the storm. Traffic was flowing on most major highways, though many side streets in the region were still clogged with snow. Work crews are working around the clock to clear snow, downed trees and other debris from Little Rock roads, city spokeswoman Meg Matthews said.

Although only tiny accumulations are expected from the freezing rain, National Weather Service forecasters said it could be enough to send vehicles skidding into ditches or each other.

But just walking the family dog proved challenging for Reynolds' 11-year-old son, Adam.

"His legs are so short," he laughed, noting the snow nearly buried the small dog. "He looked like a muffin."

Others were seeking out shelters, though space appeared limited. Toylanda Smith said the shelters she checked Wednesday night were full but that she was helped by a stranger.

"A lady helped me. I didn't know her and she didn't know me," the 22-year-old said while standing on a downtown Little Rock street corner.

She said she hoped a shelter bed would open for Thursday night, but that she was unsure how to find one or where to go.

"I came down here with someone from Chicago and he left me. I'm stranded," she said.

Little Rock opened a warming center and overnight shelter at a community center that officials said would be equipped to serve meals. Several other communities also set up shelters.

Gov. Mike Beebe gave state employees Wednesday and Thursday off because of the snowstorm. He said they would have to report to work on Friday, but would have an extra two hours to arrive.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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