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TRAFFIC ALERT: Slick conditions, wrecks reported on I-30 in Benton

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published January 8, 2014 at 10:59 a.m. Updated January 8, 2014 at 12:32 p.m.

Slick conditions are developing on roadways across parts of Arkansas including Benton, where numerous wrecks occurred late Wednesday morning.

The Benton Police Department posted on its Twitter account just before 10:45 a.m. that accidents have occurred on "every overpass in the city."

Lt. Kevin Russell, spokesman for the agency, said at least 15 wrecks were reported, including three with injuries. He said the extent of the injuries wasn't known.

Russell said the crashes happened as a sleet-freezing rain mixture fell and "immediately" made bridges and overpasses slick.

"It's one of those things that kind of surprised us all," he said. "Unfortunately it caused a lot of accidents and unfortunately we have more accidents coming in."

The ArkansasOnline live traffic map shows stopped traffic on both sides of I-30 in the Benton area.

About 450 Entergy customers west of Benton, meanwhile, were in the dark Wednesday after a vehicle hit a power pole off U.S. 67 south of I-30, Entergy said. The utility added power should be restored by 3 p.m.

The National Weather Service issued a round of winter weather advisories for much of central and western Arkansas because of the "patchy freezing rain and sleet" moving through the area. Those advisories are in addition to winter weather advisories already set for much of the state Wednesday night into Thursday.

"While temperatures could still creep up a couple of degrees this afternoon, the safer course of action was to make the Advisories extend through the afternoon, since some places will probably not make it above freezing," warning coordination meteorologist John Robinson said in an email. "Plus, with the ground already so cold, it is taking very little precipitation to cause slick spots, especially on bridges and overpasses."

Robinson said wrecks have also been reported on U.S. 64 in Faulkner County.

The Arkansas State Department of Highways and Transportation reported highways slick with ice or ice patches in much of west Arkansas, including ice on Interstate 40 from Ozark west to the state border. Slowed and stopped traffic was reported in that stretch of I-40 about 11:30 a.m.

The Yell County sheriff's office took reports of 20 wrecks on icy roadways, including "all mountain highways," Arkansas 7 and Arkansas 27, according to a post on its Facebook page.

"Please do not travel unless you have to, we expect that conditions on the roadways will improve this afternoon as the highway crews have time to work," the posting said.

The Maumelle Fire Department, meanwhile, said sleet in that city caused icy patches on some bridges, including a Maumelle Boulevard overpass.

"More freezing rain expected tonight," the agency posted on Twitter. "Use caution."

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