BITTER COLD TO LAST UNTIL TUESDAY
By Monique Harrison
Relief from the ice and snow that have covered Northeast Mississippi since late Thursday likely won’t come until Tuesday, when temperatures in the upper 40s are forecast.
“During the afternoons when the sun is shining, some of the ice and snow may thaw slightly,” said Memphis National Weather Service spokesman Ed Ingram. “But at nightfall, it will freeze right back up, so conditions really won’t get much better until Tuesday when warmer weather sets in.”
Today, the high is expected to be 20-25 under partly cloudy skies. Winds will be from the northeast at 5-10 mph. Tonight, the low should drop back into the teens.
On Monday, highs will reach the mid-30s with sunny skies expected. By Tuesday, highs are expected to be in the upper 40s, and Wednesday highs should reach the lower 50s under partly cloudy skies.
No records have been broken since freezing conditions first hit Northeast Mississippi late Thursday, Ingram said.
The record low for Friday’s date was -1 in 1951. For Saturday’s date, the record low was also -1 in 1951. The record low for today is eight degrees, set in 1962.
Saturday’s wind chill factor was expected to dip as low as -20 before midnight, officials said.
No major electrical problems were reported, with Tupelo Water and Light seeing only two outages reported before noon Saturday. In both cases, officials said power was restored within a few minutes.
Only minor accidents reported
There weren’t a record number of accident reports in Tupelo or Lee County Friday and Saturday, either.
“There really haven’t been all that many actual accidents,” a spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department said. “What we have seen is a lot of cases where we’ve had to go out and assist people who have slid off the road and into ditches.”
From Friday afternoon through mid-afternoon Saturday, the Lee County Sheriff’s Department answered 18 calls for assists.
In Tupelo, there were four accident reports filed before 2 p.m. Saturday, with only light damage and no injuries reported. Only a few minor accidents were reported Friday night, said Capt. Russ Witt, Tupelo Police Department spokesman.
“There haven’t been any serious accidents, but that doesn’t mean conditions aren’t treacherous out there,” Witt said. “The roads are passable, but they are also treacherous. We strongly suggest that unless anyone absolutely has to be out on the roads, they just stay home. And we really don’t need people out sightseeing. It just makes things worse.”
The only road closing reported in Lee County Saturday was a small, steep portion of Cliff Gookin Boulevard located near the Woman’s Clinic of Tupelo.
Mississippi Highway Patrol officials in New Albany, Starkville and Batesville all reported a high number of accidents but no fatalities.
No highways were closed Saturday afternoon.
A 160-mile stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway from 20 miles south of Tupelo through Ridgeland was impassable from Friday morning through about 11 a.m. Saturday.
About 500 ice-covered trees blocked the road. Problems were seen in areas not hit by the ice storm of 1994, Natchez Trace Parkway Chief Ranger Gordon Wissinger said.
Fractures, sled accidents common
At the North Mississippi Medical Center emergency room, the biggest problems were fractures and sprains.
“A lot of people are going out on the ice, slipping and falling,” emergency department physician Dr. Alan Brown said Saturday. “We saw 10 or 12 this morning.”
Several sledders also landed in the emergency room.
“People are using cardboard, car hoods – anything they think will pass as a sled,” Brown said. “There’s no control on those things. With a real sled, there is some control – and even that’s not much.”
A risk of hypothermia
Brown said no hypothermia cases had been reported by early Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve been here 12 or 13 years and I haven’t seen much of those,” he said. “People seem aware of it.”
Children are often prone to hypothermia, becoming oblivious to the cold because they are so excited about the rare opportunity to play in the white stuff, he said.
To avoid hypothermia, several layers of clothes should be worn. The body’s outer extremities – including hands, feet and ears – should be especially protected.
Alcohol should also be avoided by anyone going outdoors, he said.