Amid the arctic blast of winter weather that has put a vise-like grip on this area, people should make preparations in order to take care of plants, vegetation, water pipes and themselves.
Forecasters say residents should brace for subfreezing temperatures and the potential for nasty driving conditions in the coming days. Temperatures could drop as low as zero by this weekend in extreme northeast Mississippi.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for portions of east and north central Mississippi today and a winter weather advisory for other parts of the state.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Ariel Cohen said north Mississippi could see accumulations of as much as 2 inches of snow Thursday. Snow, sleet and freezing rain were expected in central Mississippi with smaller chances of frozen precipitation further south.
The conditions could lead to hazardous driving conditions and school closings in parts of the state.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation is preparing for ice on bridges and other hazardous conditions with dozens of workers and equipment on standby.
Temperatures are expected to plummet Thursday night, perhaps dipping as low as 10 degrees in north Mississippi and to the mid- to upper-teens further south.
It will continue to get colder Friday and by Saturday night the mercury could go as low as 0 degrees in far northeast Mississippi, Cohen said. Temperatures could range from the lower teens in the central portion of the state to mid-teens in the south.
“Wind chills will be below zero in the north,” Cohen said. “This is potentially deadly cold air.”
In Lauderdale County, a 68-year-old man died of hypothermia in east Missississppi, the first death in the state blamed on dangerously cold weather. Billy Joe Fuller”s body was found Tuesday on the floor of his home in the Zero community, Lauderdale County Coroner Clayton Cobler said today.
Fuller is one of several people across the South whose deaths have been blamed on the winter weather as an arctic mass settled over the region this week.
Outside plants ”gone now”
Jeff Wilson, Lowndes County director/horticulturist for the Mississippi State Extension Service, said there is little farmers can do about crops this time of year.
“There is not much planted in the ground this time of year. The only crop in the ground is wheat, and it is not as much as it has been. For now, there is not much a farmer can do,” he said.
As for residents with outside plants, if they have not brought them in yet, Wilson said they”re already a lost cause.
“They are gone now. As for outdoor shrubs, as long as they are not in bloom, they are OK. In the spring, when we have cool snaps, people will cover their shrubs. Right now, there is nothing that people need to do with them,” he said.
Wilson suggested that people who have houseplants in a garage or a sun room put them in a room where there is good heat.
“Sometimes, even if the plants are in a sun room, they can get cold and freeze,” he said.
With the colder than normal temperatures expected to stay around a few days, people should also been concerned about themselves and their neighbors.
Cindy Lawrence, Emergency Management director for Columbus and Lowndes County, said attention should be paid to elderly and shut-ins.
“The elderly and the shut-ins need to be checked on to see if they have plenty of heat,” she said.
Shelters for the homeless and older residents without adequate heating have opened across the state. Becky Thomas, director of the Lowndes County Chapter of the American Red Cross, said they are not planning to open shelters unless there is an ice storm and a big power outage.
“We will provide blankets — the thick, huge army blankets — to those in need of them. They can pick them up at the Red Cross office in the Courthouse annex, or the Columbus Police Department,” she said.
There also ways for people to winterize their homes, particularly to prevent plumbing freezes. Among the things people can do are:
- Locate your water main in the event you need to you need to shut it off in an emergency.
- Drain all garden hoses.
- Insulate exposed plumbing pipes, drain air conditioner pipes, and if the air conditioner has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Allen Baswell was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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