Rare snowfall closes schools, causes outages - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Rare snowfall closes schools, causes outages

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Thousands of homes were temporarily without power after a rare, heavy snowfall in Mississippi left icy roads and bridges across the state and forced many schools and government offices to close Friday.

Ariel Cohen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the winter storm system was expected to drop as much as 4 to 8 inches across southern and central Mississippi and much of Louisiana on Friday.

He said the road conditions were dangerous and people should avoid travel.

Troopers had worked about 20 wrecks, said Sgt. James Walker of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. No one had died, and most were fender-benders, he said.

"People are just sliding off the road into ditches and they might need a wrecker," he said.

Entergy Mississippi crews worked Friday to restore power to nearly 20,000 customers, said spokeswoman Mara Hartmann.

She said all of Entergy Mississippi's linemen were working, along with 400 crew members from sister companies and contractors.

"We anticipate some of the outages will go over into Saturday," Hartmann said.

Power was restored Friday to most of the 8,600 homes in south and southwest Mississippi that had lost electricity, said Ron Stewart, a spokesman for the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi.

However, he said some rural areas could be without electricity until Sunday.

The snowfall began Thursday night in the Delta and spread east and southward. By early morning Friday, the snowfall had intensified in much of central and south-central areas. The winter storm system was expected to move out of the state by Friday night, according to the National Weather Service.

It's possible some of the snow could linger through the weekend as temperatures in parts of the state were forecast to hover around the mid-40s on Saturday.

Temperatures on Sunday were to range from mid to upper-40s in the north-central region to the upper 50s in the south.

Gov. Haley Barbour on Thursday ordered state offices south of U.S. 82 to close. The governor has declared a state of emergency and alerted the National Guard to be prepared to respond to situations created by the snow storm.

"This is a time to be safety-minded and to check in on your elderly and housebound neighbors to make sure they have what they need to get through this winter storm," Barbour said in a statement.

Announcements of school closings began on Thursday. Some colleges, including Alcorn State University in Lorman, Jackson State University and Hinds Community College in Raymond have closed their campuses.

The wintry mix drew residents outdoors as some had snowball fights in Hattiesburg and others built snowmen in Jackson. Rafael Williams, 8, was walking in the snow through a Jackson neighborhood and posing for pictures with Brittany Armstrong, 22, and DeeDee Dunmore, 28.

"I love it. It's never been this way before since I've been alive," the 8-year-old said.

Armstrong said "the snow makes everything beautiful."

Jeff Rent, a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said early Friday that MEMA hadn't been contacted by any counties for assistance, but there had been several calls about the accumulation.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation said it had received accumulation reports in Jefferson, Issaquena, Yazoo, Humphreys, Holmes, Lexington, Hinds, Sharkey, Warren, Scott, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Forrest, Lamar, Perry, Greene, Jones, Wayne, Clarke, Copiah, Claiborne, Jasper and Lauderdale counties.

MDOT was sending snow plows from the northern part of the state to the south.

Cohen said significant snowfall rarely happens in Mississippi in February. Weather service records show there was a nine-inch accumulation at the Jackson airport in 1960.

Cohen said in 1968, the Jackson airport reported 3.6 inches of accumulation over a three-day period. In 1901, there were four inches of accumulation, he said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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