Road Dept. monitoring bridges, clearing lots

Published 1:56 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Panola County Road Manager Bruce Cook said his department has continued to salt bridges and monitor especially dangerous sections of roadway throughout the county, but he isn’t very hopeful about better driving conditions until sustained temperatures above freezing arrive early next week.

“We are all on standby and available to help where we can, but there’s just not too much we can do at this point,” Cook said Tuesday as he surveyed a section of Hwy. 51 between Batesville and Courtland. “The state treated the roads the best they could ahead of this, and the county used what limited resources we have for this type of weather but we just aren’t set up for dealing with this.”

As of press time on Tuesday, all county offices were closed, as were many retail businesses throughout Panola.

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Cook said he looked into purchasing snow plow blades to attach to dump trucks in the past, but learned that without regular use the intricate hydraulic system allowing the blades to raise and lower often malfunction. Delivery time and costs were also factors in the decision not to buy the attachments, he said.

“We have used the road graders at times to clear roads, but we have to be careful with that because if the blade misses some then drivers can hit a patch of ice they didn’t see,” he said. “Of course the best advice is when roads get in this condition just stay at home if possible. Some people don’t have a choice and it’s safer for them if other people are not out just to ride.”

This week’s storm, named Heather by the National Weather Service, left Batesville and the county with little ice on roads, and between two and six inches of snow. That powdery snow, Cook said, covered the ice and made driving dangerous, but not treacherous.

“At first the snow wasn’t too hard to drive on, especially if you went slow, but as vehicles began to break through the snow and make it slush and then freeze over at night it just gets harder and harder to drive,” Cook said.

Road Department employees were concentrating on clearing the parking lots and sidewalks at the Batesville and Sardis Courthouses so business can resume when travel conditions and weather allows.