February 3, 2011 7:55:00 PM
UPDATE: MUW announced on their Twitter account that Friday classes have been canceled due to the weather.
Lowndes and Clay County, West Point and Columbus city school districts, and Heritage Academy and Immanuel private schools, said they would stay closed Friday as freezing precipitation moved through the area Thursday night.
Local districts made their decision to stay close as rescue workers and police responded to dozens of accidents Thursday afternoon and evening, including multiple accidents along highways 82 and 45, as bridges and roads began to freeze Thursday evening.
Several accidents along Highway 82, including at the Highway 45 Alternate exit and near the Tenn-Tom Waterway bridge in Lowndes County, kept first responders busy and clogged traffic for miles. Reports on the number of accidents throughout Columbus and Starkville, and the number of injuries, weren''t immediately available.
Area schools closed a few minutes early Thursday, and East Mississippi Community College canceled night classes Thursday night. EMCC and Mississippi State University officials said classes would resume as scheduled Friday unless conditions significantly worsened.
Much of Mississippi, including the Golden Triangle, was under winter storm watches and warnings through Friday with forecasters expecting up to an inch of snow in northern counties overnight and freezing rain and sleet to the south.
Golden Triangle counties, including Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha, are under a winter storm watch until 9 a.m. Friday. A mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain was likely to develop Thursday night and develop into snow, sleet and freezing rain into Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.
Power issues from ice accumulating in trees, and treacherous driving conditions from ice on roadways are possible, the weather service said, until temperatures rise above freezing Friday morning.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation was warning motorists to watch for icy conditions on roadways and bridges.
The National Weather Service said the freezing rain and light snow could be expected to continue into Monday with overnight temperatures before freezing in central and northern Mississippi. Sunny and slightly warmer weather was expected to return statewide Tuesday.
Weather Service meteorologist Eric Carpenter says the cold air that spurred the massive snowstorms in the Midwest is moving across the area and contributing to the expected sleet and snow.
1. Photo of responding MSU officer goes viral STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
2. City to limit hours for some stores COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY