Winter storms that dumped additional snow and ice on the Deep South plunged more than 300,000 homes and businesses into darkness early Thursday and left roads impassable across a wide area.
While temperatures were expected to warm over the weekend, some people could be without power until next week.
Parts of Interstate 20 were at a standstill in Louisiana, state police said, and multiple roads were icebound in Mississippi, where almost 200,000 utility 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 4 inches (10 centimeters) of fresh snow and ice fell as far east as northwest Alabama, where electrical service has been spotty for days, and Spanish moss coated with ice hung from trees west of New Orleans.
Extreme cold weather caused water-pressure problems in Mississippi’s capital of Jackson, where the city told customers to boil water as a precaution, and roads remained icy in much of the state.
Authorities in multiple states also reported deaths in crashes on icy roads, including two people whose vehicle slid off a road and overturned in a waterway in Kentucky on Sunday, state police said. A Mississippi man died after losing control of his vehicle, which overtuned on an icy road Monday night near Starkville, Oktibbeha County coroner Michael Hunt said Tuesday.
Temperatures didn’t rise much above freezing across a wide area Thursday followed by another night of frigid temperatures, forecasters said, so problems could persist.
Entergy Mississippi, one of the largest electrical providers in the state, said 1,400 people were working on repairs and additional crews from Arkansas where headed into the state to assist. But 90,000 customers were out and progress will be slow until roads improve, spokesperson Mara Hartmann said.
“We expect this to be a multi-day event which could very easily stretch into early to mid-next week,” Hartmann said. “We are asking our customers to please be patient as we work to safely restore their service.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked the White House for a federal disaster declaration because of the icy weather. More than 48,000 state residents did not have water and more than 956,000 live in areas where residents have been told to boil water before drinking it or using it for cooking.
In Jackson, Jonathan Callahan sought shelter at a community center in Jackson as winter bore down on the city late Wednesday. Homeless after losing his job cleaning trucks during the pandemic, freezing weather has added stress and uncertainty to life for the 40-year-old man.
“I was definitely worried, thinking `What am I going to do? Where will I go?”’ Callahan said. ”It’s way too cold to be out there now.”
Reggie Wiggins, an outreach worker with the Mississippi Continuum of Care, a coalition of service organizations that help the homeless, has been driving around the city picking up people who need help.
“We have connections in the community, so we know people and where they usually stay, we go out trying to find them, we put out calls, `Have you seen this person? Have you seen this person?”’
In northwest Alabama, crews driving heavy machinery most often used for warm-weather road work cleared snow off roads and parking lots. Dozens of roads were covered with snow or icy spots, and scores of school systems in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama canceled classes, opened late or switched from in-person teaching to virtual instruction because of the weather.
Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama.
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