WILLIAMS, AZ (3TV/CBS  5) -- For 15 hours, Kimberly Griego-Kiel and her wife, Rose, sat in their car, stranded on the I-40 over the weekend. A huge backup had drivers in the same situation Saturday night.

"It's cold, so you're turning the car on and off and trying to stay warm and trying not to run out of gas and getting worried," said Kimberly.

When asked why DPS was not diverting drivers, a spokesperson for DPS wrote in an email, "Several motorists made the U-turn on their own to return to Flagstaff. Our priority was to unplug the traffic bottlenecks on the road and get traffic moving, which we did. As I mentioned, that also involved waking up drivers to get them moving."

DPS said the storm caused slow traffic as drivers had difficulty seeing the road.

"The big problem we had was commercial vehicles and drivers of passenger vehicles sleeping in their cars. Troopers literally had to continually knock on driver's windows to wake them up and get them moving. We also had a huge number of commercial vehicles on the road trying to head westbound on Interstate 40," said the DPS spokesperson in an email.

"We were less than a quarter of a mile from an overpass to turn around," said Kimberly. "I do not understand why they were not allowing people to turn around there. It makes no sense."

"It was the most poorly handled traffic tie-up in an ice storm I have experienced in my life," said Gerry Bovee, who had no way to get out of traffic on the I-40.

ADOT said it pushed traffic information out online and on its app, but those without cell phone service felt left in the dark.

"We had very little cell phone coverage," said Kimberly. "It was super spotty."

"That's why we emphasize checking before you leave and being prepared before you go," said Ryan Harding, a Public Information Officer with ADOT.

"There should have been signs much farther back and diversion, warning that the road was closed ahead and giving people the ability to turn back," said Kimberly.

ADOT said it has 15 overhead message boards on I-40 between Kingman and Holbrook with winter driving messages, but drivers on the road, like Kimberly and Rose, said they never saw any signs warning people of the huge backup.

ADOT claims it's looking for ways to enhance communication in the future. When asked for examples, Harding said, "It's still kind of in development, but we will be talking about that later on."

"Caused a lot of angry people," said Rose.

 

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