Traffic gridlock on I-40, I-55 continues into nighttime hours; d - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Traffic gridlock on I-40, I-55 continues into nighttime hours; drivers stranded

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FORREST CITY (KATV) - Even into the overnight hours on Tuesday, thousands remained stuck in immense traffic on I-40 and I-55 in eastern Arkansas.  Countless horror stories resulted from the mess, with some people reporting being stuck for 10+ hours.  The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said it was just one big domino effect resulting from inclement weather conditions.

Bernard Lindsay, a truck driver headed into Tennessee said he started his day driving in the Little Rock area, but said he had been sitting in traffic, "ever since about 9:00 o'clock this morning."

KATV caught up with Lindsay at the rest area off I-40 just before Forrest City, around 5:00 PM on Tuesday.  Lindsay's story is the same as the other semi-drivers planning on spending the night at that rest stop.  They spent their ten hours of driving stuck in traffic between Biscoe & West Memphis.

"By the time I get to West Memphis, my time's going to be up," said Tracy Johnson, trucker driving back to Virginia.  "There won't be any parking spots, so I just pulled in here and I'll go to sleep."

Many drivers got out of their cars to walk around during Tuesday's gridlock.  Stranded drivers complained of hunger, many running out of fuel, some even in accidents.

Drivers like Patricia Smith, driving to Georgia, said she's disappointed she left I-40 for US-70 only to get right back on the interstate when she thought traffic had improved.

"We should have just stayed on the 70," said Smith.

AHTD says accidents due to icy roads caused backups, coupled with several construction zones, bottlenecks formed and traffic ensued; nearly 40-50 miles of backup from Tennessee to the Brinkley area.

Rick McNamara, a trucker who said he left Hot Springs around 7:00 AM and just got into the Forrest City area at 5:30 PM, is upset with the highway department.

"Winter's have been getting pretty bad here in Arkansas and they just don't seem to comprehend they need to have some snow removal equipment," said McNamara. 

"They need some type of common sense to make sure they get them out to do the work before they run into problems like this."

Gov. Mike Beebe also appeared frustrated when reporters asked him about the traffic situation on Tuesday.  After the highway department was criticized for its response to December's ice and snow covered roads – now Beebe wants answers from the highway department.

"I don't understand why a Missouri highway is clear and an Arkansas highway is not," said Beebe.  "If it joins right there together, that is pretty unacceptable for me."

The Arkansas National Guard was called in to check on drivers medical needs, as well as the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was called on to bring fuel to stranded drivers. 

Arkansas's Red Cross received a request from the state Department of Emergency Management, Tuesday night, requesting meals for stranded drivers.  Members of the National Guard helped deliver about 750 meals.

"The thought is that they will prioritize those meals for people that have young children or people that may have health situations where they need to get something to eat," said Brigette Williams, regional communications officer, Arkansas Red Cross.