A winter system raced northeastward out of Mississippi Wednesday, leaving at least three deaths on icy bridges, numerous bent fenders and up to 3 inches of snow in some southern counties.
Law enforcement agencies, struggling to deal with dozens of weather-related accidents throughout the snow area, said the system apparently had one more card to play, the lingering slush refreezing Wednesday night and making bridges and overpasses even more dangerous.
The snow, in some cases mixed with sleet and freezing rain, was spawned from an upper level system in the lower Mississippi valley region and a surface low system over the western Gulf of Mexico.
A chance of snow flurries remained in the forecast for several counties, but officials said the major concern now was the frigid temperatures, in some cases in the teens, expected both Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Master Sgt. Walter Armstrong, a Highway Patrol spokesman, said the three weather-related deaths occurred in separate accidents on icy roads and bridges Wednesday morning in Jones and Lamar counties.
Armstrong said David Batsel, 55, of New Orleans, died in a one-vehicle accident on Interstate 59 in Lamar County. A few of hours later, Marteec McMillian, 6, of Laurel, died when his mother apparently lost control of their car on icy Mississippi 537 in Jones County. Also in Jones County, a vehicle went of control while crossing ice-covered spans on I-59 and crashed. Armstrong said Jose Perez of Laurel was killed and three people were injured. Armstrong had initially identified the driver of the car as the fatality but later said the driver was not injured.
"We've literally had wrecks on top of wrecks,'' Armstrong said. The Hattiesburg district had worked about 35 wrecks as of 7 a.m. Wednesday and many more since that time. "A lot of these have been one-vehicle accidents, cars sliding into bridges, sliding off the roads,'' he said. "We even had two patrol cars hit.''
James Snyder, public affairs officer at the patrol's Hattiesburg office, said almost all of the accidents had occurred on icy bridges. He said the major concern was that some of the slush left as the snow melted would refreeze on bridges Wednesday night.
While some of the wrecks apparently occurred on bridges where sand had not been applied, transportation officials and troopers said crews had been busy spreading sand. Snyder said in his district troopers in the field reported highway crews were out Wednesday putting sand on bridges where slush was expected to refreeze.
"We are concerned that a lot of people traveling during the night won't see the problem (of ice) and think the roadways are safe. People need to just slow down on bridges when we have these conditions.''
Lynn Gilmore with the National Weather Service in Jackson said an area between Columbia and Hattiesburg, about 90 miles south of Jackson, received the most snow Tuesday night, up to 3 inches.
In Brookhaven, Highway Patrol dispatcher James Lambert said there had been some snow accumulation in the Magnolia and Osyka areas near the Mississippi-Louisiana line.