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

FORREST CITY (KATV) - Eveninto the overnight hours on Tuesday, thousands remained stuck in immensetraffic on I-40 and I-55 in eastern Arkansas.{}Countless horror stories resulted from the mess, with some peoplereporting being stuck for 10+ hours.{} TheArkansas Highway and Transportation Department said it was just one big dominoeffect resulting from inclement weather conditions.

Bernard Lindsay, a truckdriver headed into Tennessee said he started his day driving in the Little Rockarea, but said he had been sitting in traffic, "ever since about 9:00 o'clockthis morning."

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

"By the time I get to WestMemphis, my time's going to be up," said Tracy Johnson, trucker driving back toVirginia.{} "There won't be any parkingspots, so I just pulled in here and I'll go to sleep."

Many drivers got out oftheir cars to walk around during Tuesday's gridlock.{} Stranded drivers complained of hunger, manyrunning out of fuel, some even in accidents.

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

"We should have juststayed on the 70," said Smith.

AHTD says accidents due toicy roads caused backups, coupled with several construction zones, bottlenecksformed and traffic ensued; nearly 40-50 miles of backup from Tennessee to theBrinkley area.

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

"Winter's have beengetting pretty bad here in Arkansas and they just don't seem to comprehend theyneed to have some snow removal equipment," said McNamara.{}

"They need some type of commonsense to make sure they get them out to do the work before they run intoproblems like this."

Gov. Mike Beebe alsoappeared frustrated when reporters asked him about the traffic situation onTuesday.{} After the highway departmentwas criticized for its response to December's ice and snow covered roads - now Beebewants answers from the highway department.

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

The Arkansas NationalGuard was called in to check on drivers medical needs, as well as the ArkansasGame and Fish Commission was called on to bring fuel to stranded drivers.{}

Arkansas's Red Crossreceived a request from the state Department of Emergency Management, Tuesdaynight, requesting meals for stranded drivers.{}Members of the National Guard helped deliver about 750 meals.

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

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