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Hundreds of truckers diverted as traffic gets stranded on Interstate 55

Truckers and travelers were diverted down side highways and to local Pemiscot County towns when I-55 closed for many hours
Truckers and travelers were diverted down side highways and to local Pemiscot County towns when I-55 closed for many hours
Karol Wilcox

Semi –trucks and big rigs are not a strange sight in Hayti, MO as many make it a stop off of Interstate 55 to fuel and take a break. On Mar. 4 though because of a major winter storm, Hayti and other cities were inundated with the big rigs when I-55 was shut down in the southbound lane from exit 8 in Missouri almost to West Memphis in Tennessee.

The problem began as one of the most major winter storms hit the area Mar. 2 and Mar. 3 dropping thunder freezing rain, sleet and heavy snow across the region. Travel is still difficult throughout the Bootheel and schools will be closed for the third day in row in Pemiscot County on Mar. 5. The Missouri southbound lanes ran slow but steady up to the Arkansas border, where traffic came to a complete stop stranding some motorists for over 15 hours by all reports.

The back-up caused Missouri officials to begin diverting traffic at exits further north, creating an over-abundance of semi-trailer trucks in Hayti. Some fuel stations were turning away trucks for lack of space and truckers were looking for anywhere to take refuge until I-55 could open again. The state of Arkansas activated the National Guard for help with road clearing.

Many businesses in Pemiscot County, MO remain closed following suit with the schools, and many of the roads are still considered impassable. Law enforcement officials are stressing that residents should not get out and drive unless it is necessary and no final count on slide offs, wrecks and stranded motorists was available as the situation continues to be ongoing.

The storm dumped more than five inches of freezing rain, sleet and snow, at times accompanied by thunder and at one point the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch, which it rescinded. Temperatures have remained below freezing, but are slowly expected to begin warming by the end of the week, the first relief that many are looking for.

Pemiscot County is one of the highest poverty counties in Missouri and the third of the month many receive their disability checks, but have been unable to get out and pay bills or grocery shop. Authorities are asking residents to use common sense when on the roads and to plan extra time. As for the truckers, they are holing up wherever they can find a spot until I-55 goes back to some type of normal.

Emergency crews and wreckers are working overtime and everyone in the area seems ready for signs that spring is coming. Schools are scrambling to figure out how they are going to make up all of the snow days that are being used and many businesses are trying to figure out how soon they can re-open.

For more information about roadway conditions and incidents in Missouri, please visit the Traveler Information Map at http://traveler.modot.org/mapor call MoDOT's Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888 ASK MODOT (275-6636).