By PAUL SIMS, KELLY DANIELS and BRIAN HAWKINS
Starkville Daily News
Starkville and Oktibbeha County got this week off to a frozen start as a forecast winter storm dumped an estimated 3 to 4 inches of snow and sleet on the community, but resulted in few problems for residents.
Though forecasts did call for accumulations of up to 10 inches, a two and a half hour lull between periods of snow and sleet probably kept the city and county from seeing greater amounts of frozen precipitation.
Still, by 8 p.m. Sunday, a layer of sleet more than an inch thick covered city and county roads, making driving conditions hazardous and snow continued to fall intermittently throughout Sunday night and into the predawn hours Monday, often very heavily.
Despite this, law enforcement agencies reported few problems, though two crashes did occur at two points along U.S. 82 early Sunday evening and Starkville police also had two accidents inside the city.
“Thankfully, we had no wrecks in the county during the night, but the potential was there,” said George Carrithers, chief deputy for the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department. “We may see some problems over the next day or so since there are still icy patches are on many gravel roads, bridges and paved roads that are heavily shaded.”
Residents and businesses enjoyed a day free of power outages, officials say. Lynn Spruill, chief administrative officer for the City of Starkville said no calls reporting fallen limbs were received and that residents have heeded warnings of dangerous road conditions.
“We’ve been fortunate in the sense that we should be able to get back into the normal routine tomorrow,” Spruill said Monday.
After city administrative offices were closed Monday, city staff members expect to resume operations today, keeping regular hours at City Hall.
“I expect we’ll proceed with caution, but we’ll return tomorrow,” Spruill said.
Oktibbeha County officials also reported a smooth day despite the bad weather. County Administrator Don Posey neither he nor the road manager has received complaints of power outages.
“We’re normally bombarded with calls about limbs in the streets or on power lines,” Posey reported. “We’ve been in excellent shape.”
County roads required no special attention except a little salt, he added.
Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said in a statement that there were a low number of power outages across 33 north Mississippi.
As of 2 p.m. Monday, the largest number of people without power were about 35 Entergy Mississippi customers in Senatobia. Presley said Entergy crews were working to restore power to these customers.
“Fortunately, the vast majority of people in North Mississippi have electric service and have not seen an interruption due to the snow and ice. My staff and I will continue to closely monitor this situation,” Presley said.
4-County Electric Power Association Manager of District Operations Cliff Wall said in a statement that as of mid-morning Monday, the association had seen less than five hours of outages in the previous 24 hours, with only a handful of customers impacted. None seemed to be weather-related.
Wall urged caution as snow and ice stays in place. “If you see a line down, don’t go near it. Call 4-County or your power provider and let them know,” Wall said.
Schools remain closed; MSU, EMCC to reopen
Primary and secondary schools in the area will be closed today, but the area’s higher education institutions will reopen for classes.
A statement on Mississippi State University’s website Monday said: “Based on improved weather conditions, Mississippi State University will reopen Tuesday.
All classes will meet as normal. Students, faculty and staff are urged to continue to use caution as they travel. Monitor local news outlets for advisories and updates.”
East Mississippi Community College will resume classes at all locations at 11 a.m. today, officials said in a statement, with employees asked to report at 10 a.m.
“The late start on the day should allow any residual ice on the roadways to melt,” the statement read, with officials urging students and employees to drive with caution.
Starkville School District officials made the determination that classes would not meet but that central office staff would report for work today beginning at 10 a.m., and start time for a scheduled city school board meeting would be moved from from 6 p.m. to 5 p.m..
Starkville Academy and the Oktibbeha County School District reversed course from earlier decisions to open today.
SA High School Principal Billy Wilbanks said several teachers who live outside the Starkville area said they expected trouble getting to the school.
“We just wanted to make sure everybody is safe. We just want to err on the side of caution,” Wilbanks said.
On Monday evening, an outgoing voice message at Starkville Christian School indicated the school will be closed Tuesday.
The chance for a refreeze
Jim Britt, Oktibbeha County’s emergency management director, said city and county road crews did “a great job getting the streets and roadways clear” early Monday morning.
Though much of the sleet and snow melted off streets and roads during the day Monday, the possibility remained that any remaining moisture could refreeze, making for icy patches on roads, bridges and overpasses, said Britt, reiterating Carrithers’ earlier comments.
With today’s high temperature forecast at around 40 degrees, more melting of snow and ice is likely, but a blast of Arctic air is set to descend on most of the state tonight, sending nighttime temperatures into the teens, Britt said. Chilly temperatures — particularly in the overnight hours — are forecast the next few days.
“What we could see again tonight is more refreezing of the melted snow and ice, particularly since there are some cold, brisk winds in the forecast. The Weather Service told us today that we could see wind chills of 5 to 10 degrees (tonight),” Britt said.
“That could again make for some dangerous driving conditions in many areas.”
Other scheduled events today
Here are some other events are scheduled to take place today, regardless of road conditions:
• The Oktibbeha County Grand Jury will begin its January session today. Grand jurors are requested to arrive at the Oktibbeha County Courthouse Annex at 9 a.m. “if possible,” Circuit Clerk Angie McGinnis said.
• Starkville Community Theatre’s preview performance of “The Dixie Swim Club” — its competition entry for this weekend’s Mississippi Theatre Association festival in Meridian — will take place as scheduled at 7:30 p.m. in McComas Hall on the Mississippi State campus.