Drivers stopping to look at the wreckage from Sunday's storms have been causing ongoing traffic delays, officials said Wednesday.
Danny Straessle, spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said the tornado has affected the traditional reroutes that drivers normally would take to avoid Interstate 40.
“The thing not to do is slow down and take a look,” he said. “Typically when there’s a delay on I-40, folks use State Highway 365 to go around it, but that option is not available as it relates to this event. All of our traditional reroutes were impacted.”
Downed power lines have been a setback for highway department crews getting in to fix the routes damaged by the tornado.
"Our delay has been the power company. They've been restoring power, and once that's done, our crews can get in there. We won't go in with power lines down," Straessle said.
Arkansas 365 currently is restricted to residents only, Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said.
For drivers traveling from Conway to Little Rock, a trip that typically takes about 30 minutes has been taking up to 90, Straessle said.
The reroute that has been the most successful for drivers is U.S. 64, according to Straessle.
“All of Highway 64 is open. It’s U.S. 64 B that’s closed,” Straessle said.
Sadler said those caught trying to snap pictures or slow down to look at damage while driving through the Mayflower and Vilonia areas could be ticketed for impeding traffic.
“We’re still encouraging motorists to stay away unless you have business in the area,” he said. “I-40 has been open since Sunday, but there does continue to be a problem with motorists slowing down to take photographs or look.”
Straessle and Sadler both said if motorists must drive on I-40 to maintain a minimum speed of 45 mph. To remind drivers of this, Straessle said, the Highway Department has placed portable message signs displaying the minimum speed.
“Plan your trip before you leave and pay attention to the vehicle in front of you,” Straessle said. “Drivers need to use extra caution and be fully alert of cars in front of them stopping. This is also an area where we have a work zone.”
The Arkansas Online traffic map shows in real time which routes are experiencing delays.