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Officials thank residents for staying off roads

City, county and state officials all agree that they were better prepared this for the winter storm that closed schools and government offices for days.

After freezing rain caused many accidents and roadways to shut down last Friday, residents and emergency officials made sure to prepare for the weather event that occurred earlier this week.

“I think Friday was kind of a good thing being as they were so close together. It was a wake up call to not only law enforcement, but to the public,” said Capt. Jason Gazzo, spokesperson for Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop K. “I feel like we didn’t have the issues that other places had because we had experienced Friday.”

Chief Deputy Shane Tucker with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department said traffic was very light throughout the county earlier this week, which helped in decreasing the amount of calls for assistance the department received.

“The roads were pretty quiet because people stayed home,” Tucker said.

He said they were less prepared on Friday because it wasn’t an event that was discussed beforehand, but that they made sure to be better prepared for the incoming winter weather.

Tony Bounds, public information officer for Pearl River County Emergency Operations Center, said Friday night was “nearly worst case scenario in Pearl River County.”

“There was no warning to anyone that it was going to be that bad. It was like someone flipped a switch and every roadway in the county iced up. This had never happened to us before,” Bounds said.

He said last Friday night and the rest of the weekend, tons and tons of sand and salt were brought into the county in preparation for the ice build up that was being forecasted.

On Monday, the EOC was activated and over 25 agencies were in attendance at the meeting on Monday afternoon.

“So, come the beginning of the winter storm on Monday, we were ready,” Bounds said.

“The county road department worked tirelessly with MDOT around the clock sanding, de-icing and inspecting bridges. Private businesses, such Huey Stockstill, Inc., even came in with their equipment to help out,” Bounds said.

Bounds applauded the county road department, law enforcement personnel and fire department personnel. He said law enforcement and the fire departments constantly communicated with the EOC to inform them of problem areas, which allowed the EOC to inform the public.

Bounds said the road department and EOC also heavily utilized media and Facebook to give real time updates to residents.

“We also asked county residents to stay home and they did. They took the advice and that was a major factor in the successful outcome of this weather event,” Bounds said.

Gazzo said on Thursday morning that the MHP was working with Mississippi Department of Transportation to assess the state and federal highways and interstates and compiling information on the resources that were utilized to help travelers.

“The public has really heeded the warnings. For the most part, they weren’t on the roadways and they drove cautiously,” Gazzo said.