Ice from freezing rain and sleet is accumulating on roads and bridges in numerous Mid-South counties stretching from the Mississippi Delta into northern Mississippi, western Tennessee and eastern Arkansas.
As of 3 p.m. EST Monday, 27 counties in the Mid-South are under a Winter Weather Advisory for freezing rain, ice and sleet accumulations off less than .25 of an inch on free, power lines, bridges and elevated road surfaces until noon Tuesday, Jan. 15. The greatest potential for icing will be late Monday evening through sunrise Tuesday.
In Memphis, Shelby County Public Works said it is keeping a close eye on the wintry mix of precipitation. Crews will salt and sand roads should streets ice over. Those traveling Monday evening should pay close attention as ice can quickly form on bridges and overpasses. Shelby County's new Emergency Operations Center at 1075 Mullins Station Road will be activated should there be large-scale power outages or roads become impassable.
At 2:30 p.m. Monday, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office implemented the Inclement Weather Policy until further notice. This means that anyone involved in an accident needs to exchange license information and report it later.
For four hours Monday afternoon, I-385 Eastbound was closed at Forest Hill Irene because of several accidents due to ice. The stretch re-opened at around 6:30 p.m.
In the same four-hour span Monday afternoon, Shelby County Sheriff spokesman said while under the inclement weather policy, deputies responded to a total of 39 crashes. Eight of those crashes were with injuries.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation says ice accumulated Monday on roads and bridges in Alcorn, DeSoto, Lafayette, Leflore, Marshall, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Tippah and Yalobusha counties.
Chad Entremont, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, says an ice storm warning in effect for parts of the Mississippi Delta could be extended into Tuesday.
Entremont says there could be light freezing rain or drizzle in the area overnight with the possibility of more freezing rain and sleet Tuesday.
The Mississippi Department of Education says more than two dozen districts closed schools Monday.
Entremont says there's a chance of light snow Thursday in central Mississippi.
A winter weather advisory is in place for counties in southeastern Arkansas, where freezing rain and sleet is predicted.
The weather service issued the advisory for Arkansas, Bradley, Calhoun, Cleveland, Desha, Drew and Lincoln counties until 4 p.m. Monday. Forecasters say precipitation will begin as sleet but will eventually transition to freezing rain.
The weather service says temperatures should warm above freezing in the afternoon. One-tenth of an inch of ice is possible, especially on bridges and elevated roads.
Farther north, snow and sleet are possible in a line from Camden to Little Rock to Brinkley - but forecasters say they don't expect it to accumulate because of warm ground temperatures.
Entergy Mississippi, Inc. is prepared to respond to any power outages in the Delta region that could be caused by the winter weather system moving across the state Monday.
The National Weather Service has issued an ice storm warning for the Delta region of the state as well as parts of Arkansas and Louisiana. As much as an eighth to a quarter inch of ice and isolated areas of snow are predicted.
"Freezing rain and ice accumulation can pose a significant threat to an electric system," said Dale Hancock, operations manager for Entergy Mississippi, Inc. "We have about 40 contractors (eight crews) prepositioned in the Highway 82 corridor. We have ten additional contract crews and additional vegetation crews being moved into the potential strike area today as well. We're monitoring this system and are prepared to respond should any outages occur."
Entergy officials have been working with the company's weather vendors in advance of the storm to better understand the potential risk and prepare accordingly.
When planning which work will be done first following a storm, Entergy places top priority on restoring service to facilities considered critical. These include hospitals, fire stations, police departments and other public facilities. After critical infrastructure has been restored, crews do the work that will get the largest numbers of customers on as quickly as possible.
"We also urge customers to monitor the storm and prepare to implement their own storm plans if needed," Hancock said. "And customers should call 1-800-9OUTAGE (1-800-968-8243) to report downed or dangling power lines, poles or other damaged equipment. As with any storm, safety is always our first priority. Customers should not walk in standing water or venture into areas of debris since power lines that could still be energized and dangerous may not be visible."
The Associated Press in Jackson, Miss., and Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.