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Weather-related accidents soar during winter storm


Sarah Fowler



Thursday was a great day on the roads -- if you owned a tow truck operation. 


Otherwise, the nasty winter weather wreaked havoc on roads throughout the area. 


There were approximately 40 traffic accidents in Lowndes County Thursday morning as a winter storm dumped one-to-four inches of snow on roadways that were already saturated by a week-long rain. 


Corp. Criss Turnipseed of the Mississippi Highway Patrol said troopers with MHP worked 22 accidents in Troop G on Thursday due to weather conditions, including 11 in Lowndes County. Three of the 22 accidents resulted in injuries, Turnipseed said. 


There was also one fatal wreck.  


Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant said Johnnie Mathews, 64, died early Thursday when his 2001 Chevrolet pickup truck collided with a tree that had fallen across Highway 50.  


Mathews was traveling east toward Columbus when the accident occurred. According to Merchant, Mathews died on impact. The Chevrolet then continued underneath the tree, crossed the roadway, went down a hill and hit a tree before coming to a stop.  


Mathews' vehicle was discovered after 5 a.m., when troopers with the Mississippi Highway Patrol responded to another accident in the vicinity.  


Merchant said a call came in to 911 at 4:58 a.m. reporting a four-car accident due to the fallen tree. It is unclear what time Mathews' accident occurred, but Merchant speculated he was heading to work at the United States Postal Service, where he was due to report at 5 a.m.  


While Mathews' accident was not snow-related, the wintry mix caused numerous accidents throughout the day. Officials with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department said deputies had worked 26 wrecks by 9 a.m. Thursday.  


The accidents continued into today, with the Columbus Police Department reporting four accidents with injuries by 8:30 a.m. 


In addition to the accidents, Turnipseed said there were numerous calls to assist stranded motorists. The majority of the calls happened in the early morning hours, as the snow was just beginning to fall.  


Although Thursday was a busy, challenging day, Turnipseed said MHP personnel performed admirably. 


"Days like Thursday are just another day in the life of a MHP trooper," he said. 


It was, naturally, a busy day for tow-truck operators, too. 


"It was a substantial day in the towing industry," said Bo Jarrett of Jarrett's Towing, who worked five wrecks Thursday. 



Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.



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