AR Highway Dept. works to clear roads, motorists slip and slide

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Region 8 road crews and motorists were still battling the aftermath of the latest winter storm Tuesday.

Arkansas Highway Department crews pre-treated the roads with sand and salt before the storm hit.

However, Public Information Officer David Nilles said the rain washed away most of their work.

"That's always a challenge when we're out with our road crews trying to pre-treat the bridges and overpasses," Nilles said. "The heavy rains will wash those chemicals off."

Nilles said crews are also battling below-freezing temperatures.

"When we put salt down, it has to be 22 degrees for it to be effective," Nilles said. "So it's been a real challenge."

Nilles said frequent accidents have also delayed crews.

"That's been the problem," Nilles said. "Our crews have been out since this weekend working, our graters are out, our salt and sand crews are out. With the backups on the interstate, it's difficult for our equipment to get to some of those places because of the traffic."

However, one driver stuck in the backups said enough is enough.

"I honestly didn't know if I was going to make it home," motorist Kylea Clouser said. "I was terrified. There was times when I just started crying."

Clouser was stuck in Arkansas for 16 hours. Her drive from Indiana to Mississippi usually takes about eight hours, but with the icy road conditions, her trip turned into a day and a half.

"When you get to Arkansas, there's just slush and ice everywhere," Clouser said. "You can't really control your car. Even if you're not moving, you're sliding. It was just really thick, bumpy ice everywhere and lanes were going down to one lane, which made it worse. I didn't have anything to drink or eat."

Clouser said she is usually more prepared, but she did not think it would be this bad.

"There's semis flipped over on every side and car pile ups that just happen right in front of you," Clouser said. "It was scary. We were all running out of gas, but nobody was responding. I called 911 and they said there was nothing they could do about it because they couldn't get to us."

Clouser slept in her car for part of the 16 hours.

"I was scared at first, but the people behind you will honk if they ever start moving," Clouser said. "You just don't think you're going to make it home because you're stuck there for so long and nobody's coming to help you."

Help finally came Tuesday. National Guard officers and state troopers are checking on motorists and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is transporting fuel to stalled vehicles.

However, Clouser said this came too late for her.

"We really needed it last night because if somebody runs out of gas, you're stuck. Nobody can move," Clouser said. "But then there's still people stranded on the side of the road when I left, who don't have gas or water, and they need it. So it's good that they're going now, but we needed it awhile back, too."

Clouser finally made it out of Arkansas into Mississippi.

"I am so relieved because there's times when you're just holding on to the wheel and you're like, 'I don't even know if I'm going to make it home,'" Clouser said. "It was not fun. I never want to do it again."

Nilles said crews are still working 24/7 to make the roads more passable for drivers.

Nilles said crews had an extra battle Tuesday: refreezing. He said once the temperatures rise above freezing, the department will be able to clear the roads faster.

In the meantime, Nilles urges the public to stay at home.

"Stay away from it. You'll just be sitting in traffic," Nilles said. "For those that are on it, just go very slowly if you are moving. Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Be alert to the conditions."

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