Icy Roads

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 11, 2011

A driver carefully navigates Eureka Road Thursday morning at the Batesville city limits, advancing about twenty miles an hour through an icy lane. Snowfall that produced patches of ice Wednesday made driving tricky for drivers, especially on highways and Interstate 55. The Panolian photo by Billy Davis

Ice-covered roads prove tricky, treacherous

By Billy Davis

If automobile wrecks were dollar bills, Barry Thompson would be rich.

The Panola sheriff’s investigator said he helped as many as 50 drivers Wednesday after they skidded on snow-covered, ice-slicked roadways.

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And that was only on a stretch of Interstate 55, where Thompson and Chief Deputy Andy Estridge zipped up and down the interstate to assist the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

Many drivers lost control when they drove upon another wreck and hit their brakes, according to Thompson. Other drivers told Thompson they lost control when an 18-wheeler passed them.

Despite the number of spins and spills, drivers so far have reported minor injuries, said the investigator.

The winter storm marched into the Mid-South from Oklahoma and Texas. Areas of Arkansas reported as much as two feet of snow. North Mississippi received as much as six inches in areas of DeSoto County.

Snowfall began shortly before noon Wednesday morning in Panola County, just as predicted, and remained heavy throughout the day. 

The National Weather Service, citing a storm spotter, reported four inches of snow had fallen in Batesville by 9:30 Wednesday night.

The snowfall and ice spared power lines throughout the county, said TVEPA spokesman Marlon Williams.

But the roadways didn’t fare as well as the power lines. Heafner Motors wrecker driver Bobby Daugherty said he worked until 3 a.m. Thursday morning, then returned to work at seven o’clock.

 “I stayed busy,” Daugherty said. “I stopped at a store for coffee and kept going.”

Pride Hyundai wreck driver Terry Ellis said he towed seven automobiles Wednesday and pulled out another five or six.

Daugherty said he pulled out “six or seven” automobiles and towed another two that were damaged.

“The people with four-wheel drive, they’re getting there before we do,” Daugherty complained.

That’s not so bad, right, since they’re helping out a neighbor?

“Naw,” Daugherty answered, “they’re charging them to help.”

On the interstate, the northbound lane was shut down for about an hour and a half Thursday morning when a Coffeeville driver hit the bridge at the Pope-Courtland exit, said Thompson.

The driver, behind the wheel of an SUV, was headed to work at GE Aviation. The accident occurred about 6:45.

When the wreck stalled traffic on the interstate, 18-wheelers were then stuck on the icy roadway unable to move up an interstate embankment.

Thompson said MDOT saved the day when it showed up with a “slag” truck that dumped rocks on the interstate to provide traction for the tractor-trailers.