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Freezing Winter Storm Paralyzes Deep South; Thousands Without Power

2021-02-19 17:57:37

Winter storms that dropped additional snow and ice on the Deep South left more than 300,000 homes and businesses in darkness early Thursday, leaving roads in a wide area impassable.

While temperatures were expected to rise over the weekend, some people could be without power until next week.

Parts of Interstate 20 stood still in Louisiana, state police said, and several roads were frozen in Mississippi, where nearly 200,000 electricity customers were without power, including thousands near the capital in Jackson. In northern Mississippi, the picturesque square in Oxford has been white with snow since late Sunday.

As much as four inches of fresh snow and ice fell as far east as northwest Alabama, where the electricity had been spotty for days, and Spanish moss covered with ice hung from trees west of New Orleans.

Extremely cold weather caused water pressure problems in Jackson, the Mississippi capital, where the city told customers to boil water as a precaution, and roads remained freezing in much of the state.

Authorities in multiple states also reported fatalities in icy road accidents, including two people whose vehicle slid off the road Sunday and tipped over into a Kentucky waterway, state police said. A Mississippi man died after losing control of his vehicle, which overtook on an icy road near Starkville Monday night, Oktibbeha County coroner Michael Hunt said Tuesday.

Temperatures did not rise much above freezing in a large area on Thursday, followed by another freezing night, forecasters said, so problems could persist.

City workers repair a broken water pipe in McComb, Miss., Thursday, February 18, 2021. Winter storms that dropped additional snow and ice on the Deep South plunged thousands of homes and businesses into darkness, leaving roads impassable over a wide area. . (Matt Williamson / The Enterprise-Journal via AP)

Entergy Mississippi, one of the state's largest providers of electricity, said 1,400 people were working on repairs and additional Arkansas crews were going to the state to help. But 90,000 customers were gone, and progress will be slow until roads improve, spokesman Mara Hartmann said.

"We expect this to be a multi-day event that could very easily last until the beginning of the next week," said Hartmann. "We ask our customers to be patient as we work to restore their service safely."

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has asked the White House for a federal disaster declaration due to the icy weather. More than 48,000 state residents had no water, and more than 956,000 live in areas where residents have been told to boil water before drinking or using it for cooking.

In Jackson, Jonathan Callahan was seeking shelter in a community center in Jackson when winter hit the city late on Wednesday. Homeless after losing his job cleaning trucks during the pandemic, freezing weather has added stress and insecurity to the 40-year-old man's life.

“I was absolutely worried, thinking, 'What should I do? Where do I have to go? & # 39; & # 39; Callahan said. "It's way too cold to be out there."

Reggie Wiggins, a counselor with the Mississippi Continuum of Care, a coalition of service organizations that help the homeless, drives across town to pick up people who need help.

“We have connections in the community so we know people and where they usually stay, we go out to find them, we call,“ Have you seen this person? Have you seen this person? "& # 39;

In northwestern Alabama, crews operating heavy machinery most commonly used for hot weather roadworks have cleared snow from roads and parking lots. Dozens of roads were covered with snow or icy patches, and dozens of school systems in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama canceled classes, opened late, or switched from face-to-face to virtual teaching due to the weather.

Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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