By Galen Holley / NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Treetops glistened, children listened and as of Saturday afternoon most everybody seemed to have reached their Yuletide destinations unscathed.
A white Christmas doesn’t come often to the area, but Saturday morning folks woke up not just to Bing Crosby’s wishful song lyrics but to a scene straight out of a holiday fairy tale. The snow started falling in the early morning hours and by 7 a.m. it had gathered into Tupelo’s first measurable accumulation on Christmas Day since 1930, as far back as official records go.
The National Weather Service said Oxford received nearly 2 inches of snow, with an inch or less falling on Tupelo, Grenada and Columbus.
According to Danny Gant, a Weather Service meteorologist in Memphis, the last time Tupeloans woke up to a white Christmas was in 1998, but the snow had fallen the day before.
Northeast Mississippi’s snow was part of a system that blanketed parts of the Midwest on Christmas Eve before dipping south late Friday. The snow was expected to hit the East Coast today, with at least six inches predicted for the Washington, D.C., area.
At Tupelo Regional Airport, the temperature was actually a degree above freezing at 7 a.m. Saturday, but according to Gant the conditions were right high up in the sky, including a lot of moisture that lingered most of the day.
At the Tupelo Children’s Mansion, Gino Altamirano didn’t quite know what to make of all the white stuff. The 12-year-old recently arrived in Tupelo with his five brothers and sisters from Arizona. His dark skin and hair showed the lineage of a desert people, and the boy, big for his age, looked around him with eyes of wonder.
That wonder quickly turned to mischief as Altamirano gathered a mass of soggy snow in both hands and crunched it down on the head of his little brother, Giovani.
“This stuff is great,” said good-natured little Giovani, shaking like a wet dog.
For 90-year-old Mattie Bonner, the white landscape provided the ideal setting to have five generations of her family gathered around her. As a light dusting of snow continued to fall through the afternoon, Bonner and family enjoyed a traditional dinner in her Park Hill neighborhood home.
In the 60 years she’s lived in Tupelo, this was the first white Christmas Bonner could remember. She didn’t trust her footing to get outside in the immaculate powder, but she enjoyed from the window.
“It’s just so pretty, it’s just beautiful,” she said.
According to Trooper Brian Mobley, public affairs officer for the Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop G out of Starkville, as of 1:30 p.m. only a few drivers had slid off the shoulder of the road, especially around slick spots, like on Hwy 278 near Amory, and on Hwy 45 south of Nettleton, but damage and injuries were minor.
The unusual weather, said Mobley, caught folks off guard but for the most part everyone seemed to be driving cautiously. Trooper Ray Hall said that four accidents took place in the New Albany District on Saturday, most of them minor.
Since the patrol’s holiday season officially began at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Hall said, the Highway Patrol has investigated 79 accidents statewide, none of them fatal.
The holiday ends at midnight Sunday.
Gant of the National Weather Service said the chance of light flurries will continue through Sunday evening, when temperatures could dip as low as 21 degrees, but the possibility of accumulation is slim.
Contact Galen Holley at 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.