LITTLE ROCK Traffic on Interstate 30 in Saline County began moving late Monday afternoon, but ice-slicked roads that claimed two lives were expected to stay that way as the temperature plummets overnight.
A wintry blast hit most of central and south Arkansas on Sunday, dumping up to 8 inches of snow in some areas. Schools, governments and businesses were closed as officials cautioned against using the roadways.
Travelers on I-30 weren't completely out of the woods, however, as Bill Sadler with the Arkansas State Police reported trouble at Caddo Valley near mile marker 78. Highway Department crews were on hand to remove ice that has coated the eastbound lanes, paralyzing traffic.
Other roadways were faring a little better. Sadler reports isolated problems on ice-covered bridges on Interstate 40 in east Arkansas.
Along the western end of I-40 and north along I-540, troopers have reported isolated icy spots developing. There are no reports of problems along I-530 into Pine Bluff.
"It's definitely not a day to be traveling," highway department spokesman Randy Ort said. "The main thing is if the motorists will stay off the road as much as possible."
One person died Sunday in a traffic crash in Clark County and another died in Calhoun County, both in south Arkansas.
Kelle Murphree, 42, of Junction City died in a crash on U.S. 167 when her car went out of control, struck another vehicle, then hit a tree and burned. State police said the road was icy when the crash occurred shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday.
Carizetta R. Cummings, 24, of Arkadelphia, died in a crash at about 11 a.m. Sunday as sleet was falling, state police said. A 19-month-old child in the vehicle was injured.
As of 1 p.m. Monday, Little Rock International Airport, Adams Field, reported no flight cancellations, though departure and arrival delays of 15 minutes or less are being reported on the airport's website at www.fly-lit.com/airlines_flights/status.aspx. It's recommended that travelers check the airport's Web site to make sure their flights are not canceled or significantly delayed.
Dozens of schools canceled classes after a storm that left a dusting of snow in the northern part of the state and up to 8 inches between Gurdon and Benton, the National Weather Service said. An unofficial snow gauge in downtown Little Rock showed more than 3 inches of snow had accumulated since the first flakes began falling around 2 p.m. Sunday.
Central Arkansas Transit Authority buses started service around 9 a.m. Monday and will be running snow routes.
The Arkansas Department of Highways and Transportation reported Monday morning that virtually all major highways in the state had some form of wintry precipitation on them. All highways out of Little Rock and Pine Bluff had snow on them and Interstate 40 between Russellville and Ozark had heavy snow, according to a road conditions map posted on the agency's website.
Ort said there were three main problem areas in the state:
- I-30 in Benton. Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said about a dozen 18-wheelers had jack-knifed in the area amid "some of the worst driving conditions in the state." Ort said traffic was completely blocked in both directions. "Many people have been stranded there for a long, long time," he said, adding the wrecks were complicating efforts to clear or treat the slick highway.
- Highway 25 in Cleburne County near Heber Springs. Multiple wrecks have been reported.
- I-30 in Hempstead County. The stretch of highway between the 20 mile-marker and the 26 mile-marker has been alternately open and closed multiple times as crews responded to collisions and slideoffs. The eastbound lanes were closed again around 6:30 a.m.
Arkansas National Guard Capt. Christopher Heathscott said guardsmen have been going up and down I-30 since shortly after midnight, providing water, fuel and the option to be taken to shelters set up at the armories in Benton and Malvern.
"This mission will go as long as we're needed," Heathscott said, adding most motorists were opting to stay with their vehicles. He described I-30 as a "parking lot."
In Little Rock and North Little Rock, dispatchers reported minimal problems overnight. As of 6:20 a.m., no roads were closed in Little Rock and only the 5900 block of North Hills was shut down in North Little Rock.
In Little Rock, the downtown streets were snow-covered and slick as light traffic began to move on them around 5:15 a.m.
Dispatcher William Cazort said there were few wrecks and no serious injuries from 10 p.m. Sunday through Monday morning.
"It's been very light traffic throughout the night and it's basically just a snow pack with no ice, it what out officers are saying," Cazort said. "We're able to get around with - I wouldn't say with ease - but there are no problem areas other than the usual places."
He listed the usual problem areas as Reservoir Road, Pleasant Valley and University Avenue.
Pulaski County dispatchers said there were wrecks throughout the area and that bridges appeared to be the most slick.
Elsewhere in the state, troopers reported a range of driving conditions. Sadler relayed the following road updates from troopers who reported them around 6:30 a.m.
- Roads to the south of Little Rock into southeast Arkansas are passable, though travel is not recommended.
- Roads near Russellville and Clarksville are snow-covered and bridges are ice-covered.
- I-40 near Ozark is dangerously slick, as are other roadways in the Fort Smith area.
- I-55 through Mississippi County has a thick coat of ice on it. Secondary roads in Jonesboro are ice-covered.
Officials warned on Sunday that it might take days before all roadways are cleared.
Ort said on Monday that he couldn't provide an estimate on when the highways would be cleared, but said it should help as the sun comes out. Temperatures, though, aren't expected to rise above freezing.
"That's not working in our favor," he said.
The conditions are not expected to worsen as the bulk of the precipitation has already tapered off.
A winter storm warning that had been issued is no longer in effect, though forecasters say there is a slight chance of freezing drizzle through the day Monday. A winter weather advisory is in effect through midnight for Washington, Benton, Madison and Carroll counties in northwest Arkansas. Up to 3 additional inches of snow is possible there.
This story was originally published at 5:35 a.m.