Safety shared by many in rare snow storm

Published 12:04 am Saturday, February 1, 2014

NATCHEZ — Officials in areas neighboring Adams County and Concordia Parish credit preparedness and cautious residents as reasons no major damage or injuries were reported when snow and sleet hit this week.

Law enforcement and emergency management officials in Jefferson and Wilkinson counties and Catahoula Parish said the bulk of calls their agencies responded to involved motorists sliding off the road or wrecking because of the icy road conditions.

Officials say school, government and business closures kept many residents off the roads, minimizing problems.

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Wilkinson County Chancery Clerk Thomas C. Tolliver, who is also the county’s volunteer director of homeland security and emergency management, said a large amount of motorists ran off the road or wrecked.

At one point, Tolliver said, authorities were simultaneously responding to 12 wrecks on U.S. 61.

Some Wilkinson County roads were still hazardous Friday, Tolliver said, because ice had not melted in heavily shaded areas.

Tolliver said he was expecting widespread power outages because of the snow and sleet.

“But there were not any significant power outages like I expected with us being in a rural area,” he said.

No major injuries or damage were reported in Wilkinson County, Tolliver said.

“We were really blessed,” he said. “Our citizenry prepared and listened to our directions that were if you’re inside, stay inside. They listened very well, and we’re very glad they did. It’s always better when you’re prepared and listen and take heed to your first responders.”

The Wilkinson County Board of Supervisors preemptively declared a state of emergency before the winter weather hit, Tolliver said, and an emergency management plan was activated.

“From the sheriff’s office and police department to firefighters and other volunteers, we were ready,” he said.

“Even my local response team was activated, and we activated our plan.”

Jefferson County Sheriff Peter Walker said his office responded to at least 20 calls of stranded motorists this week because of the icy roads.

Walker said deputies also transported Jefferson/Franklin Correctional Facility employees to and from work because of the weather conditions.

Walker did not receive any reports of major injuries.

“Everything went really well,” he said.

Catahoula Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Ellis Boothe said the parish received similar reports of motorists sliding off the road, residents with frozen pipes and other winter-weather related issues.

Boothe said he estimated the sheriff’s office responded to 75 calls of motorists sliding off the road. Most of those calls came on Wednesday, Boothe said, after the snow and sleet had already fallen.

“Wednesday evening people started to stir because what happened was the snow melted and then it refroze, so we had some problems then,” he said.

But no major injuries, Boothe said.

“Just bumps and bruises and things like that,” he said. “We were prepared and knew it was coming. The (Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development) had there crews out 24/7 salting and sanding the bridges and roads. We asked people not to get out in it, and for the most part, they listened.”