to Pulaski and Lonoke Counties
The largest county by population in Arkansas, Pulaski County had an estimated population of 393,956 in 2017 and covers about 760 square miles, the U.S. Census calculates. Most of Pulaski County’s population lives within its eight incorporated cities: Jacksonville, with a population of 28,513; Little Rock, with 198,606; Maumelle, with 18,214; North Little Rock, with 65,911; Sherwood, population 31,081; and the smaller municipalities of Alexander, Cammack Village and Wrightsville.
Part of the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area, Lonoke County’s population was 72,898 in 2017, the census estimated. The county, which lies just east of Pulaski County, covers 803 square miles. Lonoke, population 4,248, is the county seat, and the county’s largest city is Cabot, with a population of 26,141 in 2017.
In addition to the miles of beautiful real estate along the Arkansas River, Pulaski County boasts a wealth of museums and art centers, colleges and universities, team sports, historic architecture, a vibrant performance art community, parks, libraries, media outlets, a zoo and much more.
In the earliest human history, indigenous “Mound People” thrived in the lower Arkansas Delta region creating settlements, trails and trade routes at what is now Toltec State Park. With its proximity to the Ozark and Ouachita mountains and the Arkansas River, the area now bounded by Pulaski and Lonoke counties became a central point for the movement of people and goods long before European explorers traversed the state.
One of the first European explorers to reach the area was Spaniard Hernando de Soto in 1540 and 1542. No organized expeditionary groups traveled to the region until two centuries later, when French explorer Bernard de la Harpe reached the Pulaski and Lonoke area via the lower Arkansas River in 1721 and 1722. Historians estimate that European settlers eventually put down roots in Pulaski County in 1807 and that fewer than 2,000 settlers resided in the county by 1820.
In 1818, Congress established Arkansas Territory, at which time Pulaski County was created, taking its name from Count Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who fought and died in the 1779 Battle of Savannah during the Revolutionary War. The territorial legislature established Cadron as the seat of Pulaski County government in 1820 but moved the county seat to Little Rock in 1821 when the territorial capital moved to Little Rock. Pulaski County had a population of 3,513 when Congress accepted Arkansas as a state in 1836.
The Secession Convention delegates voted almost unanimously May 6, 1861, to secede from the Union, and Arkansas formally joined the Confederate States of America on May 20, 1861. Little Rock remained the state capital; however, in 1863 as the Union Army approached, the Confederate state capital moved to Washington, Arkansas, in Hempstead County. Union forces prevailed in the Battle of Little Rock in September 1863, defeating the Confederate Army. Union forces occupied Pulaski County for the duration of the Civil War, and at its conclusion, state officials moved the state capital back to Little Rock.
Lonoke County was originally part of Pulaski and Prairie counties until the late 1800s. The lands of the county were sparsely populated for most of its early history, with evidence of indigenous artifacts in several mounds built between A.D. 650 and 1050. The first known settlement of European immigrants was in 1821 on Moss Prairie, founded by Sampson Gray from Williamson County, Tennessee. Further settlements are attributed to Francis Secrist in 1826 and James Eagle — father of Arkansas Gov. James P. Eagle — in 1839.
In 1830, John Harrod settled the area known as Cypress Creek, which is the northern boundary of current Lonoke County. In 1857, Gilbert Knapp, who owned the land where the mounds were found, named them the Toltec Mounds, thinking that the Toltec Indians from Mexico built them, though archaeologists later proved otherwise. As the Arkansas Legislature was forming and locating counties in the latter half of the century, a petition was introduced to form the county of Lonoke. Gov. Elisha Baxter signed the act on April 16, 1873. Its name originates from a “lone oak” tree that stood on the site of the current county seat. Among the 75 counties in Arkansas, it is the only one to share its name with its county seat.
Pulaski County’s population surged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from 63,179 in 1900 to 156,085 in 1940. In 1938, completion of construction of Lake Winona created the principal municipal water supply for Little Rock. Families poured into the area with the establishment of the Little Rock Housing Authority in 1940, which provided low-cost rental housing.
With more families arriving during the World War II era, educational services began to grow as well. The state established the Schools for the Deaf and Blind in 1939, which still operates at the same Little Rock location. In 1927, local leaders founded Little Rock Junior College, which began offering four-year degree programs as Little Rock University in 1957.
Little Rock University was added to the University of Arkansas System in 1969. Also, during the pre-World War II period, Shorter College (1895) and Arkansas Baptist College (1884) were established to serve predominantly African-American students. During World War II, Lonoke County was chosen for a training center. An Army/Air Force pre-glider school was built north of Lonoke, near Chambers School on the George Stauber farm.
The racial integration of Central High School in 1957 was the most transformational event in Little Rock and Pulaski County in the 20th century. Considered the first major test of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the integration effort, which revealed deep divisions among local and state leaders, foreshadowed the civil rights turmoil the nation faced throughout the 1960s.
Despite the turmoil of overcoming racial segregation, Pulaski County developed as a multimodal transportation hub. The Interstate Highway System was completed in Arkansas with Interstate 30 and Interstate 40 intersecting in North Little Rock. In the 1970s, I-630 was completed in Little Rock, and the I-430 and I-440 loops were completed around Little Rock and North Little Rock. The completion of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System project Dec. 3, 1970, opened the Arkansas River to barge traffic, and Little Rock and North Little Rock both developed port facilities on each side of the river.
Airport improvements were made as well. Between World War I and World War II, the Adams Field airport grew to 640 acres. During the 1990s, more than $170 million in capital improvements were made to the airport. The airport, now known as the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, encompasses about 2,200 acres.
Pulaski County’s workforce numbers 204,670 and consists of 69.3 percent private wage and salary workers, 19.5 percent government employees and 5.4 percent self-employed and unpaid family workers. Of the population 25 years old or older, 89.7 percent are high school or equivalency graduates, while 32.9 percent hold a bachelor’s degree. Three large publicly traded companies are based in Pulaski County: Alltel, Acxiom and Dillard’s Department Stores. In November 2004, construction of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library, on the bank of the Arkansas River in Pulaski County, was completed.
In Lonoke County, agriculture continues to be its principle economic resource. Cotton ruled as the main crop until W.H. Fuller proved in 1904 that rice could be profitably grown on the same land. Remington Arms is the largest manufacturer in the county. Other industries include MKT Fastening and Ammonia Hold in Lonoke and Dreamline in Cabot. Due to their locations, Cabot, Austin and Ward make perfect bedroom communities for Little Rock Air Force Base and the Little Rock metropolitan area. The county is the site of the Camp Nelson Confederate Cemetery, Toltec Mounds State Park and the Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery — one of the world’s largest fish hatcheries.
State of Arkansas
Division of Emergency Management 501-683-6700
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management is the state’s Homeland Security and Preparedness Agency. The department serves as a coordination center for the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate the effects of threats to our nation’s security. The state’s emergency operations center, which has representatives from various state agencies to ensure assistance can be given quickly in a situation of urgency, is housed at the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. For more information about how to prepare for a disaster, visit the department’s website.
Weather and Climate
The climate in Pulaski and Lonoke counties is a humid subtropic zone, meaning it has hot, humid summers and mild winters, usually without snow. The average low in January is 31 degrees, and the average high in July is 92.
The climate makes outdoor activities possible year-round — as long as you safely prepare for four seasons of weather conditions.
Every second counts in a disaster so planning and preparation can be lifesavers.
Ready Arkansas is the state’s official emergency preparedness campaign. Ready Arkansas uses education, training and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues and disasters of all kinds. The website provides information on creating an emergency plan and emergency kit, pet preparedness and disaster preparedness for seniors.
For more information about disaster preparedness, visit www.ready.gov/arkansas. You can also find a wealth of preparedness information online from the state Department of Emergency Management at www.adem.arkansas.gov/plan-prepare.
Another great resource for natural disaster and severe weather information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/disasters. Here you can find information on how to prepare for various weather emergencies.
The following are considered significant hazards in Arkansas.
While it may come as a surprise to many, numerous earthquakes occur in Arkansas every year. Most are too small to be felt by humans, but there is always a risk that a catastrophic earthquake could occur along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which is the most seismically active area of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.
For more information about earthquake preparedness and response, visit the Department of Emergency Management at www.adem.arkansas.gov/earthquake.
Extreme Heat and Sun Exposure
Some exposure to sunlight is good, even healthy, but too much can be dangerous. Broad-spectrum ultraviolet radiation, listed as a known carcinogen by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, can cause blistering sunburns as well as long-term problems like skin cancer, cataracts and immune system suppression. Overexposure also causes wrinkling and premature aging of the skin.
Cloud cover reduces UV levels, but not completely. Depending on cloud cover thickness, you can still burn on a chilly, overcast day, so be prepared with sunglasses, sunscreen, long-sleeved garments, wide-brimmed hats and a parasol.
Because of the county’s high temperatures, it is important to take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Stay indoors when temperatures are extreme. Drink cool liquids often, particularly water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcoholic beverages as they dehydrate the body. Eat small, frequent meals and avoid foods high in protein, as they increase metabolic heat.
If you must venture outdoors, avoid going out during midday hours. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight. Avoid strenuous activities and keep hydrated. Cover all exposed skin with a high SPF sunscreen and follow general sun exposure precautions. Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; and fainting. If you experience symptoms of heat exhaustion, you should move to a cooler location. Lie down and loosen your clothing, then apply cool, wet cloths to your body. Sip water. If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention. You should seek out immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms of heat stroke, such as a body temperature of more than 103 degrees; hot, red, dry or moist skin; a rapid and strong pulse; or unconsciousness. For more information, visit www.adem.arkansas.gov/extreme-heat.
Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. Even beyond coastal regions, flash floods, inland flooding and seasonal storms affect every region of the country, damaging homes and businesses. It is dangerous to underestimate the force and power of water.
During a flood watch or warning, gather your emergency supplies and stay tuned to local radio or TV stations for further weather information. If you are outdoors during a rainstorm, seek higher ground. Avoid walking through any floodwaters — even water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. If you are driving, avoid flooded areas. The majority of deaths in floods occur when people drive through flooded areas. Roads concealed by water may not be intact. Water only a foot deep can displace a vehicle. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water can engulf a vehicle and sweep it away.
For more on protecting yourself from flooding in Arkansas, visit www.adem.arkansas.gov/floods.
Arkansas is subject to severe thunderstorms, including supercell thunderstorms, which can produce large hail, high winds and tornadoes. A thunderstorm can knock out power and cause flash flooding as well.
While more likely at certain times of the year, thunderstorms can happen anytime. A severe thunderstorm can knock out power; bring high winds, lightning, flash floods and hail; and spin into a twister in seconds. Pay attention to storm warnings. Remember the rule: “When thunder roars, head indoors.” The National Weather Service recommends following the 30/30 rule: People should seek shelter if the “flash-to-bang” delay — the length of time in seconds from the sight of the lightning flash to the arrival of its subsequent thunder — is 30 seconds or less, and remain under cover for 30 minutes after the final thunderclap.
For more information, visit the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management’s website at www.adem.arkansas.gov/thunderstorms.
Arkansas experiences tornadoes mainly in the spring and summer, but the dramatic wind funnels can bring a dangerous path of damage at any time of year. Tornadoes can develop quickly, with minimal warning, so it is important to have a plan in place before they occur. If a tornado watch is issued, weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes, such as during a severe thunderstorm. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should take shelter immediately during a tornado warning.
For more information on tornado preparedness, visit the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management website at www.adem.arkansas.gov/tornados.
The majority of wildfires are caused by humans. Causes include arson, recreational fires that get out of control, negligently discarded cigarettes and debris burning. Natural causes like lightning can also cause a wildfire.
If your home is in an area prone to wildfires, you can mitigate your risk. Have an evacuation plan and maintain a defensible area that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers and other brush.
Even if your home is not in the vicinity of a wildfire, the smoke and ash produced by wildfires can create air quality issues for hundreds of miles. Pay attention to local air quality reports following a wildfire in your area.
Wildfires are unpredictable and impossible to forecast so preparation is especially important. Visit www.adem.arkansas.gov/wildfires for information on wildfire preparedness.
While winters are mostly mild in Pulaski and Lonoke counties, the area is no stranger to snow and ice. Monthly snowfall averages about 2 inches December through February. Add wind chill to that equation, and you’ll want to be prepared for the winter chills.
Prepare for winter storms by assembling a disaster supply kit for your home and vehicle. Have your car winterized before the winter storm season arrives. Listen to weather forecasts and plan ahead.
When winter storms and blizzards hit, dangers include strong winds, blinding snow and frigid wind chills. Avoid unnecessary travel during storm watches and warnings and stay indoors.
Winter storms can also cause power outages. During a power outage, gather in a central room with an alternative heat source. Use fireplaces, wood stoves and other heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside. Never use an electric generator or a gas or charcoal grill indoors. The fumes are deadly. If you use a space heater, keep the heater away from any object that may catch fire (drapes, furniture or bedding) and never leave it unattended. Avoid letting pipes freeze and rupture by leaving faucets slightly open so they drip continuously.
For more information on winter preparedness and winterizing your home and vehicles, visit www.adem.arkansas.gov/winter-storms-and-extreme-cold.