Wintry mix should leave by afternoon

Some schools close because of weather

          TIM ISBEL

/SUN HERALD Roofs along the Coast had a sneak peek of what is heading their way after a shower of rain and sleet Thursday. Snow is expected to fall along the Coast through Friday morning.

GULFPORT

The wintry mix in South Mississippi should move out of the area by early afternoon and the weekend will be sunny and cold, forecasters said.

School districts along the Coast canceled classes today, and shelters opened Thursday afternoon in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties because of the inclement weather. The shelters are expected to open again tonight.

The system that moved through overnight brought rain, sleet and some snow. Areas north of Interstate 10 and in Pearl River, Stone and George counties saw more accumulation, but warnings continue early today that roads, bridges and overpasses could be slick from precipitation.

The National Weather Service in New Orleans issued a winter-storm warning for the Coast that will end at 2 p.m. today.

“The snow will become moderate to heavy at times, and substantial accumulation is expected on roads and bridges as temperatures fall near freezing,” the statement said.

Gov. Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency late Thursday afternoon and said the dangerous weather conditions would be felt across the state.

“I have asked MEMA and the National Guard to be prepared to provide emergency assistance if needed,” he said in a statement. “I urge everyone to exercise caution in this winter storm and travel only when necessary.”

Airlines canceled several flights from Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport for today. Kristi Bennett, the airport’s marketing representative, said ticket holders should call the airlines or visit airline Web sites for information before they come to the airport. Two flights to Dallas on American Eagle were canceled Thursday, along with Delta flights to Memphis and Atlanta. Flights to Atlanta for Saturday are already being canceled, she said.

Power companies covering South Mississippi on Thursday began preparing crews and equipment in case the storm causes outages. Representatives from Coast Electric, Mississippi and Singing River Electric said they have been preparing for this storm since Tuesday.

A low-pressure system was moving across the Gulf Coast on Thursday, bringing rain, sleet and snow from Texas to Mobile. Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties saw sleet starting early Thursday afternoon. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in New Orleans said it’s hard to tell if South Mississippi would get snow and if so, how much.

“On the immediate Coast, you will see some precipitation and possibly some snow, maybe about a half-inch,” said Bob Wagner. “You’re definitely going to see some sleet. The question is how fast and how much it falls. If a lot of sleet falls, even though it’s just above freezing, it could turn to ice.

“The biggest concern will be elevated highways, especially overpasses.”

There is a chance of rain and snow until just after noon, but the system should move out of South Mississippi sometime today, and the weather will be sunny and cold throughout the weekend.

Area law enforcement agencies reported no weather-related traffic problems by late afternoon but they said that could change at night. The Mississippi Highway Patrol said anyone who doesn’t need to leave home should stay home until weather and road conditions improve. All state troopers in the six-county Troop K are either on duty or on call, said MHP Cpl. Johnny Poulos.

“Everyone needs to stay in touch with media reports on weather and road conditions,” Poulos said.

Harrison County Sheriff’s Maj. Tony Sauro said patrol officers “are feeding real-time information” such as flood levels and road conditions to the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency. Emergency needs, such as sand bags for icy roads, will be reported to EMA, Sauro said.

Reporters Mary Perez and Robin Fitzgerald contributed to this report.

By MELISSA M. SCALLAN – mmscallan@sunherald.com

  A wintry mix of rain and sleet gave Coast residents a peek at what is heading their way Thursday afternoon. The frozen precipitation is seen amongst some leave in a flower bed. Snow is expected to fall along the Coast through Friday morning.

  Popps Ferry Elementary School teacher assistant Debbie Caillavet bundles up from the cold as she watches students load onto buses in Biloxi on Thursday.

  Jasmine Seals, 11, left, ad Keith Rose, 10, play in the sleet Thursday at Popps Ferry Elementary School in Biloxi.

  Moses Tores, left, and Carlos Trejo, both of Biloxi, keep themselves bundled against the cold weather on Thursday as they work on the new median of U.S. 49 in Gulfport.

 

Sleet gathers on the roof of a car in Gulfport on Thursday.

  All photos by :JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD

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