County under a state of emergency

Published 9:05 pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SPREADING SALT: Anthony Vitale, who works in Picayune’s Public Works department, spreads salt on Long Bridge, which spans Hobolochitto Creek on Beech Street. The city was spreading salt on some bridges before the freezing rain accompanying a winter storm hit the city.  Photo by Will Sullivan

SPREADING SALT: Anthony Vitale, who works in Picayune’s Public Works department, spreads salt on Long Bridge, which spans Hobolochitto Creek on Beech Street. The city was spreading salt on some bridges before the freezing rain accompanying a winter storm hit the city.
Photo by Will Sullivan

 

The city began spreading salt on Long Bridge on Beech Street at about 10 a.m. Tuesday in anticipation of the freezing rain that could cause ice to form on the bridge making it impassable.

Long Bridge was just one of the bridges the city is working to keep open for motorists, said Eric Morris, Picayune’s director of Public Works. However, he said he would prefer if people who don’t have to be out on the roads in the wintery blast would just stay home.

He said the U.S. Highway 11 bridge over Hobolochitto Creek is especially important to keep access open from north to south Picayune.

He and other city employees were still feeling miserable that three people had been killed in a crash on that U.S. Hwy. 11 bridge. While the bridge is state responsibility, he said the city was doing all it could to help the state that Friday night when the first blast of the unusual winter weather hit Picayune.

City Manager Jim Luke said, “We’re geared up and we’re going to continue to be ready for this storm.” He was speaking at a 9 a.m. meeting of city officials and utility company managers where the U.S. National Weather Service was giving an update by conference call on the weather that was just to the north of Picayune at that time.

“The event’s unfolding as we are speaking here,” said Frank Revette of the weather service as the conference call began.

The winter storm warning was in effect through 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Revette said many areas will see freezing rain first, followed by a mix of sleet and snow.

However, the more southerly locations affected by the storm will see mostly freezing rain, which he said was the most dangerous form of precipitation affecting the area.

“As for ice accumulation goes, the further south you go, the better the chance for accumulating ice,” Revette said.

The freezing rain will coat trees and power lines with ice. Iced up limbs will break off of the trees as the weight builds up and could fall on power lines, breaking them. The ice on the lines could reach the point in some instances where the line will snap from the weight, especially in some of the high winds that will accompany the storm.

Revette said that “ice pellets” were reporting falling in Biloxi and Pascagoula just before the conference call begain.

He said rain freezing on surface roads “depends on the length of time” freezing rain falls in an area.

He repeated several times that a hard freeze will affect the area through Wednesday morning with wind chills of 4 to 15 degrees.

As Revette was speaking, reports came in to Mayor Ed Pinero, who also works for the county in economic development, saying that sleet and freezing rain were falling in Derby, north of Picayune.

Both Byron Hill of Mississippi Power Co. and Mark Wallace of Coast Electric said their offices were closed, but utility workers were at the yards with equipment ready to be dispatched to any power line breakage that may occur.

Wallace also said, “If you see a downed power line, stay away from it, way away from it.”

He and Hill also said people who suffer a loss of power may have to wait for up to five days for it to come back on because dealing with lines brought down in a ice storm have to be handled differently than those blown down in a hurricane.

Both men also said that people who use personal generators need to remember to run them from outside the home to avoid being killed by carbon monoxide building up in a residence. They also asked that only the appliances that that they wish to keep running be plugged into a generator. People who incorrectly install generators can kill workmen on a line trying to restore power to the area.

Gov. Phil Bryant declared a State of Emergency for 36 counties, including Pearl River County, on Monday night in preparation for the incoming winter weather.

“I have declared a State of Emergency to aid emergency officials in preparing for the onset of this potentially dangerous weather,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a press release. “Residents should not overreact but should make plans now to ensure they are prepared for prolonged freezing conditions and icy roadways. I am working closely with MEMA, MDOT, the Department of Public Safety and other state agencies to monitor the situation, and we will issue updates as necessary.”

Tony Bounds, public information officer for the Pearl River County Emergency Operations Center, said residents can utilize the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s 511 System to get information regarding road closures and conditions.

Residents can dial 511 with a landline or cellular line and be connected to the MDOT automated system, which uses voice prompts to provide information to callers about a specific area, Bounds said.

The county EOC started round the clock monitoring of the weather situation at 5 a.m. on Tuesday.

For information on road conditions in the county, residents can also check the Pearl River County EOC and Roads Facebook page.

Also follow the Picayune Item on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the weather. All Pearl River County schools will remain closed Wednesday.