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It's here: Winter storm hits state

 

William Browning

 

Thirty-six of Mississippi's 82 counties are under a state of emergency declared by Gov. Phil Bryant to speed response to a storm that's expected to bring snow and ice to central and southern parts of the state starting early this morning. 

 

Temperatures statewide are expected to remain below freezing from Tuesday morning through late Thursday morning, according to National Weather Service forecasters. 

 

The Golden Triangle area is under a wind chill advisory, effective through noon Wednesday. Wind chills were in the single digits this morning and are expected to remain below 20 degrees throughout the day. The overnight low is predicted to be 13 degrees with a wind-chll of 7 degrees, according to the National Weather Service office in Jackson. 

 

Snow flurries could be seen in Columbus early this morning and meteorology students at Mississippi State University reported, via Twitter, snowflakes in the Starkville area, as well. No accumulation is expected in the Golden Triangle area, though. 

 

According to its Twitter account, Columbus City Schools cancelled all afternoon activities today and are considering early dismissal. 

 

Sgt. Criss Turnipseed of the Mississippi Highway Patrol in Starkville, said that as of 8:30 a.m. today no weather-related accidents had been reported in the Golden Triangle.  

 

Turnipseed said that in some sections of the Starkville area snow could be seen blowing across roadways but it was very light. Residents from West Point south to Louisville were also reporting light snow flurries, Turnipseed said. 

 

A hard freeze warning exists for portions of north Mississippi until midday Wednesday.  

 

Across the state's southern end, the National Weather Service predicts ice accumulations up to three-quarters of an inch along the Gulf Coast; snow accumulations of up to four inches along the Hwy. 84 corridor; and up to an inch of snow along and south of the Interstate 20 corridor. 

 

The governor closed state offices for the day in the Jackson metro area due to the winter weather and potentially hazardous road conditions. Agency heads were also granted the discretion to remain closed Tuesday if conditions deteriorated.  

 

"I have declared a state of emergency to aid emergency officials in preparing for the onset of this potentially dangerous weather," Bryant said in a statement. "Residents should not overreact but should make plans now to ensure they are prepared for prolonged freezing conditions and icy roadways." 

 

Residents should prepare for the possibility of power outages, problems with pipes that are not fully insulated or at risk to burst and very dangerous driving conditions.  

 

"This is a very dangerous situation because snow and ice are very rare for extreme southern Mississippi," Robert Latham, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said in a release. "We need everyone to have an emergency plan together for this." 

 

Last week the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and other emergency service officials reported more than 100 vehicle accidents occurred in south Mississippi from icy conditions. 

 

Dispatch managing editor Slim Smith and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

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