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Published: 2/8/2014

2 jump into Ark. river to avoid wreck; 1 missing

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A search was called off because of darkness early today night for one of two people who jumped from an interstate bridge in southwestern Arkansas into an icy river to avoid a jackknifed 18-wheeler that was skidding toward them.

The search for the missing person along the Little Red River was to resume Sunday morning, according to Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which was leading the search.

“The water is 25 feet or less, so it’s pretty shallow,” Stephens said. “But the current is pretty high from the snow and ice from the storms.”

The missing person’s name was not released.

Three people were outside their vehicles after an earlier accident on the icy Interstate 30 bridge near Fulton, Ark., when a commercial truck jackknifed and slid toward them. Two people leapt over the guardrail and into the water during 29-degree weather.

One person was recovered almost immediately, according to Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler.

Game and Fish Commission employees and water rescue units from Hempstead and Miller counties were called to the scene.

The bridge eventually was cleared and traffic flowed again, though roads were treacherous.

Snow swept into Arkansas from Texas and Oklahoma on Friday, generally leaving 2-4 inches in a swath from the Ouachita Mountains to near Memphis, Tenn. Schools dismissed early, but in the Little Rock metro area the snow came late in the evening rush hour and tied up traffic for hours.

“They need to pay attention to these hills,” said Mark Townsend of Little Rock, who bought chains today morning. In the bank parking lot where he abandoned his Cadillac overnight, he worked to connect the chains to his rear tires and said he had gotten within a mile of home Friday night before traffic snarls ended his commute.

“The city should have been salting this last night,” Townsend said. “Out here there’s nothing but hills. The city could have responded better.”

Cindy Keane left an SUV in the same parking lot and walked an hour to the Embassy Suites hotel less than a half-mile away. She also recovered her car in the morning.

“This caught us off guard. They told us we were going to get a dusting,” she said, waiting for the last bit of snow to melt off her windshield.

“I got to right there,” she said, pointing to an interstate exit ramp 200 yards away. “It took me 10 minutes to get here. I promised the Lord, ‘If you let me get through this without hitting anybody, I’ll just park the thing.’”

Little Rock officials said the city closed five roads at one point because they were either blocked by abandoned cars or were unsafe, but all but one had been reopened in the afternoon.

“At this time, I encourage citizens to exercise extreme caution if they must get out on the roads,” City Manager Bruce T. Moore said in a statement today.

He said 40 workers were out Friday night to address the storm and that 70 were on duty in the morning. Workers were scraping and salting the roads and putting down sand.

Moore said crews would work 24 hours a day until operations are back to normal and that they were also working to prepare for more potential wintry weather forecast to enter the region Monday and Tuesday.

He also said that police would tow cars left in roadways if they were restricting traffic or parked in an unsafe place.



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