• 36°

8 vehicles in 3 morning accidents tie up highway

Storm clouds form over the Mississippi River Wednesday afternoon. The photograph was taken from Navy Circle off Washington Street.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[12/13/2001]Funnel clouds were spotted around the Vicksburg area Wednesday afternoon but all reported damage came this morning in car wrecks as residents headed to school and work.

No life-threatening injuries were reported as eight vehicles were involved in three wrecks on Interstate 20 between Clay Street and Indiana Avenue. Investigators said rain was a major factor in causing the pileups.

For the rest of the day, more rain may fall, but it is not expected to be heavy. A spokesman for First Baptist Church said if that’s the case, the church’s planned outdoor Christmas display will go on as scheduled.

A much-watched storm cell moved through the area between 4 and 5 p.m., bringing with it the threat of tornadoes. Sirens were sounded and school children were herded to safer areas. There were no reports of damage, said Jim Butch, severe weather forecaster with the Jackson NWS office.

“We saw several” funnel clouds, said Bill Ford, a local amateur radio operator and volunteer storm spotter. Only one, near Delta, La., appeared to have touched down, becoming a tornado.

Sammie Byrd, chief deputy of the Madison Parish Sheriff’s Department, said this morning he had no damage reports.

Warren County Emergency Management Director L.W. Callaway III said that since the storm was predicted to arrive as students were being loaded onto buses, a conference with school officials was held.

Students were kept at several schools until about 5:15, Callaway said, adding some were released to their parents.

The rain that came in two sweeps through the area was not uniform. The official recording station at the Vicksburg Water Treatment Plant on the E.W. Haining Industrial Center recorded 1.53 inch of rainfall during the 24-hour period that ended about 6 a.m. today. Another location on Mississippi 27 showed only 0.73 inch.

Butch said there may be more rain today, but the main concern was flooding during runoff.

Cheryl Comans, customer service representative for Entergy, said about 700 customers in the Fisher Ferry, Jeff Davis and Dudley road area lost power about 1 a.m. today when a tree fell on a transmission line.

Most were back on within about an hour and the rest in about three hours.

Rush-hour rain today set off a chain reaction of wrecks on I-20, police said, paralyzing traffic in eastbound and westbound lanes of I-20.

The first accident occurred in the left lane of I-20 East at about 7:30 a.m. when Jim Miller Jr., 35, 422 Lake Hill Drive, Apt. C10, rear-ended a 2000 Mercury Mountaineer driven by LouAnn Dykes, 34, 204 Long Meadow Drive. Heavy traffic had forced Dykes to brake, and Miller could not stop his 1993 Buick Century in time to avoid hitting her SUV, said Traffic Officer Leonce Young of the Vicksburg Police Department.

At the same time, Shelley K. Durrell, 22, 1401A Baum St., hydroplaned while entering I-20 East from Indiana Avenue in a 1995 Ford Escort, striking Miller’s car from behind and spinning around completely.

Durrell’s car was then hit by a 1997 BellSouth van driven by Virgil T. Carter, 52, 6106 Lancelot Lane.

None of the drivers was injured. Miller, on his way to work in Flowers, was cited for driving without insurance.

Immediately after the first wreck, a 1992 Pontiac Grand Am driven by Jeanette Parker, 56, 5125 Jeff Davis Road, was hit from behind in the right lane in her by a 2001 Toyota Camry driven by Daisy Miller, 63, 3915 Manor Drive.

Parker had braked in response to the first accident, Young said. Neither driver was injured.

In the third wreck, Cynthia D. Branning, 27, 118 Robert E. Lee, was hit from behind in her 1994 Mercury at about 7:44 by a 1993 Chevrolet pickup driven by Randall Grey, 15, 107 Fairy Lane.

Beard said traffic had slowed in the westbound lanes of I-20 in response to the two wrecks in the east lanes.

Grey was cited for driving without insurance. Neither he nor his passenger, Ronnie Weeks, 16, 2255 Freetown Road, was injured.

One of Branning’s passengers, Caley Branning, 8, same address, was treated for minor injuries at ParkView Regional Medical Center and released this morning, a hospital spokesman said.

None of the other passengers Colton Branning, 11, and Marissa Farmer, 5, both of Cynthia Branning’s address, and Britney Robison and Brianna Robison, both of 2 Beauregard were reported injured.