TUPELO SETS RECORD LOW AT 4
By Jane Hill
Whether it was to escape the lack of running water or the tedium of staying shut in, those who braved the streets, highways and ice covered inclines whether in cars or sleds Sunday may have regretted it.
Motorists spent most of the day trying to stay on the roads, according to law enforcement officials and wrecker services who were tied up Sunday rescuing those stuck in ditches, gullies and creeks.
Even those who stayed home risked some hazards if they did not stay indoors. Ambulance calls for people injured in sledding accidents shot up dramatically in Lee County, according to paramedics.
Forecasters predict that the region’s icy troubles will not linger past Tuesday when high temperatures are supposed to reach into the low 50s.
A spokesman with the National Weather Service in Memphis said Tupelo broke its record low temperature Sunday morning when the mercury dipped down to 4 degrees. The previous record low was set in 1970 with a low of 8 degrees, he said.
Sunny, clear skies that lured many from their homes Sunday are expected to continue today and Tuesday. The low for today was predicted to be 10 degrees while today’s high is expected to reach 38 degrees.
Tuesday’s low should be about 27 degrees and the high should be about 52 degrees, he said.
Gravel and sunshine improved the conditions of some of the most heavily traveled streets and intersections within Tupelo, but side streets remained thickly encrusted with the ice and snow deposited when the winter storm hit the region Thursday and Friday.
A dispatcher with the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department said Sunday afternoon that many were disregarding suggestions to stay indoors and off the treacherous roads and streets.
“People are slipping and sliding and running into each other everywhere,” she said. “It’s a kind of a circus out there. We are fortunate that we haven’t had a major accident.”
Most county sheriff’s departments reported the same conditions: icy roads mixed with motorists unused to the slick driving conditions resulting in minor fender-benders and vehicles nosed down into ditches.
Larry Marquis with Marquis Chevron in Oxford said his wrecker service business really began to pick up Sunday with more than 50 distress calls being received before mid-afternoon.
“We are currently running 10 calls behind,” Marquis said. “People are getting on the bypasses and the off ramps and are turning over and going off into creeks. It’s way too icy to be out driving.”
A spokesman for the Natchez Trace office in Tupelo said Sunday that conditions on the Trace continue to be very icy and treacherous north of Kosciusko, though conditions on the Trace south of that area had been mostly cleared.
“Fortunately, we haven’t had too many visitors on the Trace this weekend,” he said.
Thelma White, a paramedic with the North Mississippi Medical Center’s ambulance service said sledding injuries made up most of the numerous calls for ambulance service this weekend, not traffic accidents.
“This isn’t snow. This is a thick layer of ice. People just have no control when they are sledding on it. They’ve been hitting trees and telephone poles and getting beat up pretty bad,” White said. Injuries have ranged from bruises and scrapes to broken bones to injuries that require a night in the hospital, she said.
Off-duty ambulance crews have been on standby to help in case the number of calls is more than the on-duty crew can handle, she said.
“It’s been hectic,” White said.
Earth moved, water didn’t
Sunday found Tupelo Light and Water crews fighting broken water main problems in different parts of the city, according to department director Johnny Timmons.
No sooner had a broken water main at the corner of McCullough Boulevard and Coley Road been replaced that another broken water main was reported on North Church Street near the intersection with Jackson Street Sunday afternoon.
Timmons said the main lines were broken by shifts in the earth caused by the unusually cold temperatures.
“We just got all our electrical boys in and now we’ve had to send all our water crews out to deal with these problems and with water shut-offs for people with frozen pipes,” Timmons said.
Ginger Renick with Renick Plumbing in Verona said there will be more than enough work to go around for all plumbing contractors when the thaw begins Tuesday and people begin to assess the damage to their home water systems. Her business has already received more than 20 calls for service since the freeze hit.
“Insurance adjusters, plumbers and wreckers are real busy at times like this,” Renick said