LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Unseasonably low temperatures and a second wave of winter storms have created hazardous travel conditions throughout Arkansas, according to iDriveArkansas.com, the traveler-information site managed by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT). State and local authorities are asking nonessential travelers to stay off the roads.
Portions of Interstate 40 in eastern Pulaski and western Lonoke counties were closed Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 17, because of accidents caused by road conditions.
According social-media posts by the Arkansas State Police, one of the earliest accidents — part of a chain reaction of multiple crashes along I-40 — occurred about 9 a.m. when a commercial truck jackknifed, striking the rear of an Arkansas State Police (ASP) patrol car driven by Sgt. Chuck Lewis of the ASP.
Lewis, a 25-year veteran of the force, was attempting to warn westbound vehicles on I-40 of congested traffic due to a non-injury crash near Lonoke. Despite ice- and snow-covered roads, oncoming traffic was moving at speeds of 50 to 60 mph.
Joe A. Barbosa, 54, of San Antonio, Texas, the driver of a tractor-trailer truck approaching the area, lost control of his vehicle as he began to brake, causing the trailer to jackknife and strike the rear of the patrol car occupied by Lewis. The state police patrol car was spun into the tree line north of the interstate; Lewis was not seriously injured.
Barbosa regained control of the truck and trailer but left the scene of the crash. He was later apprehended in the North Little Rock area where he was charged with careless and prohibited driving and leaving the scene of a property-damage crash. Barbosa, who was not injured in the crash, was released pending a Lonoke County court date to answer the charges.
A chain of crashes caused by those first two accidents stretched more than 30 miles east of the initial crash scene.