By Dennis Seid
The Mississippi Department of Transportation is keeping a close eye on the weather in anticipation of some rough road conditions over the next 48 hours.
A wintry mix of snow and ice is expected to hit MDOT’s District 1, which is headquartered in Tupelo. The 16 counties of the district, stretching from Louisville in Winston County to Corinth in Alcorn County, have about 5,000 miles of state-maintained roads that MDOT District 1 oversees.
District 1 is comprised of Alcorn, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clay, Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Monroe, Oktibbeha, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tippah, Tishomingo, Union, Webster and Winston counties
“We’re going to be impacted,” said maintenance engineer Matt Dunn. “It’s all hands on deck.”
Snow plows are ready, as are salt trucks, some of which were used Friday and Saturday in parts of the district.
Dunn said his office is getting regular updates from the National Weather Service as well as several other sources to see what needs to be done.
District 1 has three to four dump trucks for each county, with each truck capable of holding 12 tons of road salt. Smaller pickup trucks with spreaders attached to the back also are used on smaller roads and bridges overseen by MDOT. City and county roads are taken care of by their respective parties.
“We’ll have people monitoring the conditions through the night, into tomorrow and tomorrow night,” Dunn said.
Salt will not be added to the roads until temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The salt will drop the freezing point by 20 degrees,” he said. That means that any precipitation that falls won’t freeze until it drops to 12 degrees.
And if conditions require, MDOT will add slurry to the mix to provide better traction.
Drivers are asked to call the Mississippi Highway Patrol if they encounter any road difficulties. MHP in turn will alert MDOT on where it needs to go.
The phone number for MHP Troop F out of New Albany is (662) 534-8619.
The number for MHP Troop G out of Starkville is (662) 323-5314.
Dunn also cautions drivers to stay off roads unless absolutely necessary. He also says those who do have to drive need to be careful, especially around MDOT vehicles and personnel who will be out on the roads.
MEMA urges readiness
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has advised residents to prepare themselves and their homes for the potentially dangerous weather, citing the 1994 ice storm that ravaged North Mississippi.
“Yesterday was the 20-year anniversary of the 1994 ice storm that caused millions of dollars in damage to north Mississippi,” said MEMA Executive Director Robert Latham. “Ensure that your emergency plans are in place, and ready to be activated. Check on your neighbors and those who are at-risk to make sure that everyone is safe.”
MEMA noted that ice and cold temperatures could cause power outages, problems with pipes and dangerous driving conditions.