Icy weather shutters schools

Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2015

RESTOCKING: Cameron McClain, 19, stocks bread Wednesday at Corner Market on North Frontage Road. Assistant manager Phillip Williams said bread and water were selling quickly in anticipation of severe weather.

RESTOCKING: Cameron McClain, 19, stocks bread Wednesday at Corner Market on North Frontage Road. Assistant manager Phillip Williams said bread and water were selling quickly in anticipation of severe weather.

For the third time since the first of the year, Vicksburg and Warren County residents have come under the threat of freezing precipitation and hazardous conditions from an arctic storm dipping into the deep south as it moves across the country.

The conditions were predicted to be severe enough that public school officials decided to make the call to close schools as early as possible.

“We had been closely monitoring the situation for a couple days and we talked to Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer Wednesday around 8 p.m. and he said we had been upgraded to a winter warning with accumulation,” Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy said. “Elfer expected the temperatures to remain below freezing until Friday, so there was no hope for a delayed start.”

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Significant icing on roads and bridges was predicted for the area.

“This one was easier to look at than others, and this puts us another day behind,” Shealy said. “However, I’d rather have safe children than put anyone in harm’s way.”

“Vicksburg Catholic School Administrators are waiting until the Warren County EMA meets at 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning to make the decision on whether or not to cancel school,” said Ann Roberson, Director of Development & Alumni Affairs.

The cold front announced its presence early Wednesday evening as the temperature dropped over about a two-hour period from 78 degrees to 47 accompanied by stiff winds, and rain began falling about 7:30 p.m.

Elfer said local and National Weather Service officials were expected to hold a conference call Thursday at 4:30 a.m. to get a weather update, adding a decision whether to close county offices for the day was expected at that time. North Ward Aldermen Michael Mayfield, who is in charge of the city’s emergency management activity, said a decision on city offices would be made at 4:30.

Campus security officials at Alcorn State University in Lorman said Wednesday night they had not received word if classes were scheduled Thursday. They said any announcement about classes would be posted on the school’s website. Campus security at Hinds Community College said a decision on classes would be made at 6 a.m. Thursday.

The threat of wintry weather was enough to send Warren County residents scurrying to the grocery store. Bread and bottled water were the biggest grocery sellers Wednesday as shoppers stocked up in advance of the winter storm.

“They cleaned out our water,” said Phillip Williams, assistant manager of Corner Market on North Frontage Road.

Warren and Issaquena counties are in an elevated risk area for freezing rain and sleet accumulation, which could cause power outages and slick roads, meteorologist Severe Weather forecaster Alan Gerard with the National Weather Service Office in Jackson said Wednesday.

Gerard said the rain was predicted to turn to freezing rain and then to sleet with about 1/4-inch accumulation on roads, bridges, trees and power lines as the temperatures dropped below freezing. The frozen precipitation was predicted to continue falling through mid-morning.

The low for Wednesday was predicted to be about 27 degrees, with Thursday’s low predicted at 18.

The icy precipitation and cold temperatures could combine to cause icing on roads and bridges and weigh heavy on power lines and tree limbs, forcing power outages.

Entergy representative Tammy Rankin said the utility was preparing plans for potential outages from the storm and getting help from Entergy crews in Louisiana and Texas. She said customers could check power outages by using the Entergy outage app on their smart phones, and urged people to stay away from downed power lines.

A winter storm that hit the area Feb. 24, forced city, county and school officials to close schools and government activities, with only essential employees reporting to work. Sheriff’s deputies and city police worked a total of 41 accidents in Warren County with no fatalities. County and city road and street crews put sand and salt on roads and bridges to make them passable. City street department officials estimated crews put 20 yards of sand and more than a ton of salt on city streets and bridges.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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