As snow accumulated Wednesday evening on the Golden Triangle, hazardous road conditions took a toll on area drivers and many residences experienced stretches of no electricity.
Columbus Police Department Capt. Fred Shelton said officers responded to as many as 10 traffic accidents in the city Wednesday. However, officers did not field any wreck reports overnight, he said.
“It was nothing serious, just people sliding into ditches or into guard rails,” Shelton told The Dispatch this morning. “There were no serious injuries, and it was mostly one-vehicle accidents.”
Shelton said the city tried to be proactive, temporarily closing portions of 18th Avenue North and Seventh Street North on Wednesday around steep hills so the public works department could cover the pavement with sand.
All Columbus roads were open this morning, according to Shelton.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Sgt. Criss Turnipseed said his department worked 24 weather-related traffic accidents on Golden Triangle highways Wednesday and into today. He said officers also received several calls for assistance.
In Starkville, Police Chief Frank Nichols said his officers also worked “several” weather-related wrecks. He did not offer any further specifics when contacted this morning.
Starkville Fire Chief Rodger Mann said his department experienced a relatively quiet Wednesday with few emergency calls.
Firefighters were called to a structure fire on Roundhouse Road on Wednesday night. Mann said the incident appeared to be a cooking fire, and the structure’s kitchen was moderately damaged. SFD crews will continue investigating the incident, but no foul play is suspected.
County firefighters were also dispatched to wrecks in the Artesia Road area, Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan confirmed.
Volunteers from East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department helped extract a female driver whose car slid from the road and struck a tree.
As first responders rushed to that scene, another wreck occurred off nearby Hillbrook Street, he said.
Rosenhan did not have a firm number of total accidents from Wednesday.
Cindy Lawrence, the director of Columbus Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency, said approximately eight trees were reported down throughout Lowndes County on Wednesday night.
No injuries were reported and there are no reports of anyone being displaced, Lawrence added.
Weather also downed a few trees and damaged a few power lines in Starkville on Wednesday, according to Starkville Electric Department director Terry Kemp. He said about 50 residents were without power Wednesday night along three main areas — Pleasant Acres, a portion of South Montgomery and the Greensboro/Tally Ho area.
Power to those residents has since been restored, Kemp said.
Kemp said that as snowfall intensified Wednesday afternoon, the city made it through the most dangerous portion of the storm — when an early sleet and rain mixture could freeze limbs and cause them to break — with few incidents.
Jon Turner of 4-County Electric Power Association, when contacted this morning, said more than 5,000 customers in Webster, Clay, Oktibbeha and Lowndes County were without power at some point Wednesday night.
“I’d estimate there were 5,200 to 5,500 people who lost power at the height of the snow,” Turner said. “We should have all the power restored today, but it’s been a tough go. We worked until about midnight last night, then we were back out at first light this morning.”
Turner said the ice and snow presents a different kind of challenge for his crews.
“When you have a tornado or bad storm, it moves on through and once you’ve made the repairs you don’t have to worry about it,” Turner said. “But with snow and ice, it’s a different problem because the majority of the outages are due to tree limbs falling on lines. A crew might fix a line, move on to another and five minutes later, another limb falls on the line you just repaired.”
Turner said the most affected area was in the Maben area.
“We had about 500 outages in Maben, ” he said. “In other areas, we had several in the 100 to 200 variety and the rest were just wherever a tree limb happened to fall on a line, so it was pretty sporadic.”
Mark Rushing, electric department superintendent for Columbus Light & Water, said about 200 customers had reported outages.
“We had all of the service restored, but we are beginning to get some additional reports of outages, which is what you expect with tree limbs that are weighed down with snow or ice,” Rushing said this morning. “We are working to get power back on near (Baptist) hospital right now.”
Rushing said most of the outages came from the north part of the city and along Ridge Road.
Utility companies urge the public to stay clear of downed lines and be drive carefully when approaches crews working along the roadways.
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