City preparing for ice, snow; schools closed Tuesday, Wednesday

Biloxi Public Works crews are expected to begin laying a coat of sand on city bridges and roadways, MDOT plans to lay ice-melting salt on state bridges and overpasses, Biloxi police are beefing up traffic patrols, and the Biloxi Fire Department is positioning more equipment north of the bay to avoid having to cross bridges Tuesday, when freezing rain is forecast, with rain, sleet and snow predicted for Tuesday night.

Biloxi Public Schools Superintendent Arthur McMillan has announced that classes will not be held Tuesday and Wednesday and any school-related activities planned for those days will be canceled or postponed.

The city is taking its steps after a Friday night cold spell iced over bridges, overpasses and interstate ramps, prompting 43 accidents and more than 200 calls to police dispatchers in a two-hour period Friday evening. “Typically, we might have one or two accidents in that time frame, but we had 43 accidents, which generated 200 calls from motorists,” Police Chief John Miller said.

Three of the accidents required firefighters to extricate motorists from vehicles. No serious injuries were reported.

Said Miller: “We’re going to have extra officers on the roadways to help deal with any weather-related issue, but we’re also asking people to avoid traveling unless they absolutely have to. There’s no need to be out in these dangerous conditions.”

The National Weather Service says freezing rain is likely before noon Tuesday, with a wind chill of 18 degrees generating icy roadways, and, on Tuesday night, one to two inches of snow. The Wednesday morning forecast also includes snow, freezing rain and sleet.

Biloxi has three bridges to the peninsula – the I-110 highrise, the Biloxi Bay Bridge and the Popp’s Ferry Bridge – and dozens of smaller, typically unnoticed bridges on dozens of thoroughfares, from Back Bay Boulevard to Woolmarket.

“We’re meeting this afternoon to re-check the list of areas where we will be applying sand,” said Public Works Director Dain Gaillet. “We’re also going to be making sure that we’re protecting exposed water pipes and faucets at city facilities, and residents and business owners should be doing the same thing now at their homes or businesses.”

Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney said his department plans to position firefighting equipment strategically to be able to respond to calls on either side of the bay without requiring heavy fire trucks to cross icy bridges or roadways. Extra firefighters also may be called in to work. Said Boney: “We’re taking steps to make sure we’re in a position to respond efficiently and safely.”

Weather forecast: To see the seven-day forecast and a link to a winter storm watch, click here.

City workers: Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer David Nichols said he would announce any city-employee staffing changes this afternoon.

Space heaters: The Biloxi Fire Department is reminding residents to use caution when using space heaters. To see the department’s winter safety tips, click here.