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Icy conditions shuts down schools and some businesses

UNUSUAL SIGHT: Sleet, with a mixture of snow, gathered under these oak trees at the Shay Engine Park on U.S. Highway 11. Such sights are rare here in the Deep South and while pretty, often mean trouble on our roads, streets and highways. Photo by Will Sullivan

UNUSUAL SIGHT: Sleet, with a mixture of snow, gathered under these oak trees at the Shay Engine Park on U.S. Highway 11. Such sights are rare here in the Deep South and while pretty, often mean trouble on our roads, streets and highways.
Photo by Will Sullivan

The hard freeze warning was extended until 7 a.m. today but many roads still will be dangerous to travel until as late as noon, said Frank Revitte, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New Orleans.

“Our thinking hasn’t changed … though the freezing rain and sleet have moved further to the southeast,” he said during a conference call Wednesday morning with emergency management coordinators in Mississippi and Louisiana.

All three school systems in the county were determining whether it would be safe to open Thursday, with Picayune announcing by 10 a.m. Wednesday that it would be closed on Thursday. Also, the city and the police department were continuing with their freeze emergency staffing, meaning the police department had both day shifts working the entire day and both night shifts were working the entire night. Also, Picayune City Hall remained closed for business on Wednesday.

The U.S. Post Office in Picayune reported that it would not deliver mail on Wednesday.

Mississippi Power Co. would be open only “half a day on Thursday, said Byron Hill. Coast Electric planned to be closed for business on Thursday, Mark Wallace reported by text message. Both companies reported they had no outages in Pearl River County during the storm.

“We have plenty of officers available to help,” Picayune Police Chief Brian Dawsey told Picayune Public Works director Eric Morris who at that time was planning to spread sand on U.S. Highway 11 and Memorial Boulevard. However, Morris called off the sanding at about 11 a.m. because, “the roads are mostly clear right now.”

Revitte told emergency managers he was especially concerned about “refreeze” overnight Wednesday. Cloud cover in the region, extending from East Texas through South Mississippi, was keeping the sun from warming roads and bridges. He said he didn’t expect the sun to peep from behind the clouds until 11 am. or noon for much of the region.

Any melting that occurs will leave behind plenty of moisture to freeze again overnight, meaning many roads won’t be safe to drive on Thursday until sometime after 9 a.m. in some areas and not until as late as noon in other areas, he said.

All streets and roads were open around the city at the time of the meeting, though Burnt Bridge road was reported as “impassable” by a city employee trying to get into her office, said police Capt. James Bolton. Also, the U.S. Hwy. 11 box culvert north of Hide-A-Way Lake subdivision was reported as heavily iced.

Dawsey and Bolton reported there had been very few wrecks, only four in the city by the time of the 9 a.m. meeting, in Picayune.

Dawsey said of particular concern was Interstate 59, which was open but reported as very slick with ice. The police department was sending officers to help with a vehicle roll over that occurred at exit 10 just before the conference call started shortly after 9 a.m.

In answer to a question by Keith Brown, Picayune Fire Chief and emergency coordinator, Revitte said forecasters were looking at long range forecasts for any more systems such as this one moving into the region. He said there was a “small chance” for a reoccurrence late next week.

City Manager Jim Luke said he didn’t expect to declare a curfew for Wednesday night. He did call a curfew from 9 p.m.-7 a.m. Tuesday night.

Luke said he would also like to thank city residents for staying off the roads as much as possible, because that helped keep down the number of accidents. He also said he would like to thank local businesses for their help during the emergency.

Morris said Huey Stockstill opened his company’s sand pit to the city to get sand for sanding and provided message signs to use at bridges if they had to be closed. The U.S. Hwy. 11 bridge over Hobolochitto Creek was closed Tuesday night until about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, he said.

Also, Morris said he would like to thank Circle T feed store owner, Barry Ruiz, for selling the city the salt public works employees used on some bridges and for lending the city the spreaders to spread it on the bridges.

Luke and Operations Manager Harvey Miller said they would like to thank city employees for the hard work over long hours during the emergency.

Luke also thanked the media for quickly getting out the word on Facebook about the curfew called late Tuesday because of the worsening icing conditions. He said that quick action probably helped keep down the number of people traveling the roads overnight.