Tupelo on high alert ahead of storms

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Residents and area leaders are preparing for bad weather and icy roads.
With the National Weather Service in Memphis predicting a 100 percent chance of snow today, mixed with sub-freezing temperatures, Public Works Director Sid Russell said the Tupelo has to prepare for the worst.
“We are going through equipment checks and finalizing our plan to deal with things if the roads ice over,” Russell said Wednesday. “We want to make sure everything is in place in case things do get bad. The key to success in these situations is reaction time and good planning assures us that we will be ready to react quickly if things do get bad.”
Russell said that if the roads do ice over, the city has enough salt and crushed rock to take care of it. He said the bridges and overpasses will get first priority, followed by the busiest streets.
“I advise anyone who is driving in icy conditions to use the main roads because they are the ones that will have the salt first and are the ones that the ice will melt on first because of the high volume of traffic,” he said.
Lee County Road Manager Tim Allred said his crew is watching the weather and how it affects the more than 70 bridges in the county.
Tupelo’s police also are preparing for bad weather. Sgt. Tim Clouse said extra patrolmen are on standby in case a lot of accidents occur in a short time, as happened in January 2008 when roads unexpectedly iced over. More than 70 accidents were reported in a four-hour span in Lee County.
Clouse said assisting the public will be the department’s top priority.
“The main thing for us is to be ready to help the public,” Clouse said. “If there are a lot of accidents we will have to bring in more officers, but we just want people to be patient. It may take a little longer to get there, but we will respond as quickly as we can.”
To assure the safety of the officers, Clouse said they are prepared to put chains on the tires of the squad cars for better traction if needed.
Bridges are expected to be the most troublesome areas. Mississippi Highway Patrolman Ray Hall said the way drivers handle an icy bridge can be the difference between getting home safely and being pulled from a ditch or worse.
“People just try to go over icy bridges too fast and that’s a mistake,” said Hall. “They try to speed over them and end up in a ditch. Just slow down. Take your time and make it home safely.”
He also advised that if drivers hit an icy patch, they should avoid slamming on the brakes. Easing off the accelerator and steering into the skid gives you the best chance of preventing an accident.