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Winter storm dumps sleet, freezing rain and snow on area

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / As sleet falls in the area Tuesday morning, an icy coating blankets the intersection of North Railroad Ave. and East Court St. Tuesday morning.

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / As sleet falls in the area Tuesday morning, an icy coating blankets the intersection of North Railroad Ave. and East Court St. Tuesday morning.

With freezing rain, sleet and then snow blanketing the ground in Brookhaven this morning and more severe winter weather coming this way, area electric companies and civil defense directors have briefed local authorities, and crews are on standby.

Meanwhile phone lines will be open for customers to report outages, utility officials say.

Lincoln County and the surrounding area are under a winter storm warning in effect until 6 p.m. this evening, and the chance of winter precipitation is 90 percent.

Tonight’s forecast calls for lows near 15, which means the icy precipitation will remain frozen, and roads and bridges are expected to pose a hazard.

North winds of 10 to 15 mph and decreasing to around 5 mph later in the night will add to the cold, bringing the wind chill readings to 10 to 15.

Due to the weather, residents are asked to be advised of bridge closings in the area, including Industrial Park Road, Dale

Trail and Halbert Heights bridges.

City, county and Mississippi Department of Transportation officials were working Tuesday morning in the attempt to make driving conditions as safe as possible.

“We are out monitoring roads and bridges at this time,” said Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey Tuesday morning.

“Sand is being applied to roadway surfaces and bridges in particular,” Galey said. “If it is not absolutely essential to get out, stay indoors by all means,” Galey suggested.

“There haven’t been any road closings right now, but that could soon change,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing. Rushing said he would have a more comprehensive report in the near future.

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Phil Bryant declared a State of Emergency in 36 Mississippi counties in preparation for the winter weather across south Mississippi.

A press release from the governor’s office at 5:41 p.m. Monday said the National Weather Service forecast for Tuesday is as follows:

• Snow accumulations of up to four inches are predicted along the Highway 84 corridor.

• Perhaps up to an inch of snow is possible along and south of the I-20 corridor.

• Ice accumulations up to three quarters of an inch are forecast along the Gulf Coast.

• Temperatures statewide are expected to remain below freezing from Tuesday morning through late Thursday morning.

A State of Emergency declaration is an administrative tool that allows state officials to position and deploy resources to assist areas that are impacted by an emergency. This allows officials to speed up response.

“I have declared a State of Emergency to aid emergency officials in preparing for the onset of this potentially dangerous weather,” Bryant said. “Residents should not overreact but should make plans now to ensure they are prepared for prolonged freezing conditions and icy roadways. I am working closely with MEMA, MDOT, the Department of Public Safety and other state agencies to monitor the situation, and we will issue updates as necessary.”

“… If we get the icy conditions that they are saying we will get, people need to be prepared for outages,” Galey said. “We ask that people not get out unless it is an absolute emergency.”

Galey said people should check on their neighbors and those who are vulnerable such as the sick and elderly.

Lucy Shell with Magnolia Electric said their customers can find the latest information on facebook. She said civil defense director Richard Coglin met with the company this morning and the company has put emergency crews on standby.

“We had a winter weather meeting at 11 a.m. today,” Shell said. “We are aware of the conditions – we have crews alert to the status of the weather, we are prepared for incoming calls with equipment and men ready to go to work if any problems should arise.”

Magnolia Electric customers may call, 601-833-7011/601-684-4011.

In a press release Entergy said they will be prepared for outages and have extra avenues of communication ready for customers.

“Our crews are prepared and we’ll begin mobilizing them as needed on Tuesday morning,” said Robbin Jeter, Entergy Mississippi vice president of customer service.

“We anticipate moving crews to our southern Mississippi service area to take care of any weather-related outages. If we don’t have outages here in Mississippi, we’ll likely send crews to help our sister utilities with restoration efforts in southern Louisiana.”

Freezing rain, ice accumulation and wet, heavy snow can pose a significant threat to an electric system.

“While we’re expecting mostly dry snow in our southern service area, we’re prepared for the worst,” said Jeter. “Customers should also prepare for the weather conditions forecast to hit their area.”

Entergy Customer Storm Preparation:

• Download the free Entergy app for iPhone and Android to report outages, view outages throughout our service area, get the latest company information and more.

• Visit stormcenter.entergy.com/default.aspx for storm-preparedness tips. • View Outages map and other storm-related information.

• Sign up to send and receive outage-related text messages. To use the service, register a cellphone number by texting the message REG to 368374. The system will respond and ask for an Entergy account number and ZIP code.

“We also urge customers to monitor the storm and to call 1-800-9OUTAGE (1-800-968-8243) to report downed or dangling power lines, poles or other damaged equipment,” said Jeter. “As with any storm, safety is always our first priority. Customers should not walk in standing water or venture into areas of debris since power lines that could still be energized and dangerous may not be visible.”

When storm-related outages do occur, Entergy first restores power to critical service providers, such as hospitals, fire stations and police departments. Next, crews focus on doing the work that will restore the largest numbers of people as quickly as possible, Jeter said.

Residents should prepare for the possibility of power outages, problems with pipes that are not fully insulated or at risk to burst and very dangerous driving conditions. Last week the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and other emergency service officials reported more than 100 vehicle accidents occurred in south Mississippi from icy conditions.

For details on preparedness checklists, as well as updates, residents also may visit MEMA’s website atwww.msema.org, or contact your county emergency management director. The public may also access MEMA’s mobile phone application or follow MEMA on Facebook and Twitter.