Security at Fort Hood was heightened Tuesday, causing a massive traffic jam for morning commuters in Killeen.
Some drivers reported being stuck on the road for as many as four hours Tuesday morning on U.S. Highway 190 and some surrounding streets.
The slow-moving traffic was caused by increased security measures at Fort Hood. Access to the installation from various gates was restricted as part of a regular security protocol, according to Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug. The measures included an increase in the number of vehicle searches.
Haug said the beefed-up security measures were part of a rotation, and were not specifically tied to the impending arrival of President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to visit Fort Hood today to attend a 2 p.m. memorial for victims of the April 2 shooting on post.
The resulting gridlock left many drivers frustrated.
A civilian Fort Hood employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was stuck on Clear Creek Road near Metroplex Hospital for about four hours.
“It’s not just the highway,” she said.
The employee said she was not notified of the increased searches before this morning.
“We got nothing,” she said. “Now everyone is late.”
Some drivers also reported seeing school buses among the vehicles caught in Tuesday’s traffic jam. Ramona Bellard, a spokeswoman for the Killeen Independent School District, said classes at on-post schools ran as scheduled, but added some students did not get to school when classes started.
Bellard said the district was given no advanced warning of the increase in security before Tuesday morning.
Haug said he was notified just after 10:30 p.m. Monday of the plans to increase security at all access points.
Today’s memorial ceremony and presidential visit also mean changes to the routine at Fort Hood.
According to the III Corps Facebook page, the Fort Hood main gate at T.J. Mills Boulevard will be closed from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to support the memorial ceremony.
The following gates also will be closed from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Clarke Road Gate, North; Clarke Road Gate, West Fort Hood; the Santa Fe gate, which allows access to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, will remain accessible for emergency response.
Fort Hood officials did not respond to requests from the Herald for further information on what additional security measures will be implemented today on post.
The Bell County Sheriff’s Department did confirm it would assist with the closure of Fort Hood’s main gate, including the on- and off-ramps for T.J. Mills Boulevard off U.S. 190.
Ofelia Miramontez, a spokeswoman for the Killeen Police Department, said KPD would not provide any security services on post for today’s memorial.
“The visit is contained only to Fort Hood, which is not our jurisdiction,” Miramontez said.
City of Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said Monday the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport would not be closed today.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.