January 5, 2010 1:23:00 PM
It''s painfully cold in Mississippi and it''s going to get worse.
Residents should brace for subfreezing temperatures and the potential for some nasty driving conditions in the next few days. Low temperatures could hit single digits in parts of the state with a possible wind chill of 0 degrees in north Mississippi by Friday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Ariel Cohen said there''s a 90 percent chance of snow in north Mississippi as early as Wednesday night. Watch out for possible snow, sleet and freezing rain in central Mississippi late Wednesday and into Thursday and showers in the south with a smaller chance of snow, he said.
Forecasters aren''t sure how much snow could fall. Cohen said it could be as much as 1-2 inches in north Mississippi.
Low temperatures could dip into the single digits Friday night in north Mississippi and the teens in other parts of the state, Cohen said. A strong Arctic front across the South could keep high temperatures from climbing above the teens and 20s.
"There will be the potential for dangerously cold wind chills - below zero across the north, single digits elsewhere and teens in the south," he said.
"It could be messy to say the least. At this point a large part of the state could experience hazardous travel conditions but there''s still uncertainty" about how bad it will be.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation is preparing for ice on bridges and other hazardous conditions, said Donald Wash, a maintenance superintendent in the Jackson area. Trucks are ready to salt bridges and dozens of MDOT workers are on standby across the state, Wash said.
Shelters for the homeless and older residents without adequate heating opened Monday night across the state with more expected to do so over the next several days.
In Jackson, Cohen said there have been only nine times in the past 150 years with a string of days this time of year with high temperatures below 25 degrees.
The last time Tupelo recorded actual temperatures lower than 10 degrees was Jan. 24, 2003, when the mercury dropped to 7 degrees, according to the weather service.
Temperatures will "moderate" next week but it will still be cold with highs possible reaching the 40s and 50s depending on the area, though lows could still dip into the lower 30s and 20s, Cohen said.