Frozen in Hancock County: Winter storm effectively shuts down the entire MS Gulf Coast
By Dwayne Bremer
Jan 31, 2014, 17:38
Bay St. Louis police Officer Jonathan Buehler broke out his ice skates to patrol the bridge. Top: Hancock resident Kaleigh Rae's iceman.
Hancock County residents are used to hurricanes, high winds, and storm surge, but this week, Mother Nature delivered something different: An ice storm.
Tuesday's storm came on the heels of another ice barrage last week, which caused dozens of traffic accidents and hours of congestion on the county's highways.
With last week's experiences still fresh, officials took more precautions this week.
Despite some minor inconveniences to locals, such as the closure of the Bay St. Louis Bridge for nearly 48 hours, officials said Friday that emergency response and actions this week were just about perfect.
"I can't say enough about the level of cooperation between the cities, counties, state, and residents," Hancock County Emergency Management Director Brian Adam said Friday. "We only had a handful of accidents, no serious injuries, and no major property damage."
The Hancock EMA and state emergency officials began warning residents of the impending storm on Sunday.
Schools and government offices were closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, and many locals took precautions just as they would for a hurricane. The Mississippi Department of Transportation used salt and sand to prep bridges and overpasses on Monday in advance of the storm.
Hancock County experienced nearly 10 hours of winter precipitation on Tuesday, ranging from freezing rain, to sleet, and even a few of snow flurries. When the precipitation stopped Tuesday evening, temperatures plummeted into the mid 20s, causing icy and dangerous roads.
Adam said only one minor power outage was reported, which affected about 40 homes in Pearlington.
The storm not only affected Hancock County, but a majority of the state. Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency Tuesday and state EMA and MDOT crews worked around-the-clock on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hancock County was provided with its own MDOT crew, which coordinated bridge closures with the cities and counties.
By Thursday, things began to thaw out a bit and the Bay St. Louis bridge was finally reopened about 11 a.m.
Schools and government offices also reopened on Thursday.
Adam said he believes a big reason why there were no injuries reported this week is because residents took heed of the warnings.
"People listened to the information we were putting out through the media," he said. "There was not that many people on the roads and I think the public was very aware of what was going on."
Adam said the EMA office will meet with MDOT and MEMA next week for an after-event conference to discuss its response and possibly learn from any mistakes.
"I think it went very well," he said. "Everyone did their job and nobody got hurt."