HOT SPRINGS, Ark. â Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests officials are assessing damage caused by an ice storm last week and the ongoing freezing temperatures in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The broad band of ice caused damage stretching from northern and central parts of Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma.Â
Forest personnel are assessing roads, timber and recreation areas for damage. Assessing the damage will take time because ice-packed roads remain hazardous for travel.
Â âIt is important for the safety of forest visitors and our crews that people stay off closed roads within the Forests until they can be reopened,â said Greg Hatfield, acting Ozark-St. Francis National Forests Supervisor.
The forests are scheduling aerial flyovers across the entire forest to gather information on the extent of damage and locations.
Some trails or portions of trails may be closed for several weeks. Forest Service employees will assess those areas after the road assessments are complete.
âThe safety of our employees, neighbors and partners is a top priority,â said Norm Wagoner, Ouachita National Forest Supervisor. âWe understand that some of the closures of the roads and trails can be inconvenient for forest visitors; however, to ensure safety for all, we follow proper protocols in assessing and then subsequently cleaning up the damage.â
While there was minor damage to homes and property, there have been no reports of injuries on the forests.
âOn Monday, the ranger districts began assessing the damage and worked on cutting and removing debris on roads to residences to ensure people could travel to and from their homes,â said Wagoner.Â
Visitors to the forest should be mindful that as the forest begins to thaw, there may be additional hazards.
âAs the forest begins to thaw, there could be damage to the tree roots and branches causing them to fall,â said Hatfield. âWe want forest visitors to use extra precautions for the safety of everyone recreating in the three national forests as we work to clear away debris and reopen roads.â
Visitors are encouraged to call the Forest Supervisorâs office or their local Ranger Districts for more current information before making a trip to remote locations in the national forests.
Photos and other information will be posted on Ouachita National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/osfnf.