WASHINGTON COUNTY (KFSM) — Arkansas State Police and other law enforcement agencies faced more traffic headaches on Interstate 49 Friday morning (March 1) as light freezing drizzle once again caused wrecks, including one that mangled a Washington County deputy's vehicle.
The interstate was shut down in the southbound lanes, and all but one northbound lane was closed, at mile marker 51 about 4:34 a.m. as several wrecks were reported on a bridge crossing Winn Creek just south of West Fork. By 4:45 a.m., all lanes of Interstate 49 were closed in that area. The interstate was reopened about three hours later.
Five cars were wrecked on the southbound side of the bridge, and one wrecked on the northbound side by 4:30 a.m., according to a dispatcher with the Arkansas State Police. The bridge was "totally iced over," the dispatcher said. State Police were waiting for trucks from the Arkansas Department of Transportation to treat the icy roadway.
One of the wrecks included a Washington County Sheriff's Office vehicle, which was damaged on the slick highway. A deputy was assisting Arkansas State Police on I-49 south of West Fork when a car hit the deputy's SUV, then a semi hit it.
"Thankfully, we're not sure how, no one was injured," deputies said in a Facebook post.
State Police spent the morning commute redirecting traffic to old U.S. 71 at the West Fork and Winslow exits. Unfortunately, some people were driving on the shoulder to go around the patrol car blocking off the roadway, the dispatcher confirmed.
"That is a very, very dangerous thing to do," he said.
A 5NEWS crew also observed drivers turning around and driving the opposite direction along the shoulder to reach an exit and get out of the traffic jam.
By 6:30 a.m., ArDOT vehicles had sanded the bridge in the northbound lanes. But the southbound lanes were still in need of treatment, and wreckers needed to get in to clear the vehicles involved in accidents there, including the semi that hit the deputy's vehicle.
"The tow trucks are just sliding all over the place right now," the dispatcher said.
The northbound lanes reopened about 7:10 a.m. Southbound lanes reopened at 7:35 a.m.
State Police said bridges also seemed to be icing over in north Washington County. Treatment trucks had been summoned to treat the bridges.
A three-vehicle accident was reported on Interstate 49 on the right shoulder of the Porter Road exit in Fayetteville (exit 65) about 5:40 a.m. The highway itself stayed open as the accident was worked, traffic was slowed in the area. The interstate was closed briefly to clear the cars involved, but it was reopened about 10 minutes later.
About 5:15 a.m., ArDOT activated its winter weather mapping system on iDriveArkansas.com. It reported ice patches on Interstate 49 from the Bobby Hopper Tunnel to West Fork through most of the morning.
Drivers can check road conditions at iDriveArkansas.com.