Mid-South states work to clean up roads as they prepare for next winter storm

MID-SOUTH — In Mississippi the Department of Transportation got what they hoped would happen on Tuesday -- sunshine for most of the day helped some of the icy roads clear up while plow crews ran on the interstate.

MDOT told FOX13 they are concerned that a lot of ice coming in with this storm would make it extremely tough to get off the roads, much tougher than snow.

On Highway 78 Tuesday, one lane was open and traffic was moving at a good clip. MDOT said the sun they hope will melt off a lot of the ice from Monday and that will make things easier on them Wednesday.

FOX13 spoke with one woman trying out to get essential workers to work. She said the roads were treacherous, even with a four-wheel drive.

“The interstate is terrible,” said Rhonda Wright of Olive Branch. “If you don’t have to be out here, please don’t come out. Just be safe. We’re not used to this kind of weather, so if you don’t have to come out, just be safe. We’re not used to this kind of weather, so if you don’t have a vehicle like a Jeep, you probably need to stay in.”

As for the interstates, there is at least one lane open in every direction. There is trouble on the off-ramps in some spots that are iced over. FOX13 crews saw one tractor-trailer jackknifed on an on-ramp.

A lot of roads in neighborhoods are still in deep snow and ice, as are driveways and parking lots. FOX13 talked to one man from Olive Branch who owns a four-wheel drive vehicle, but he said he is only making essential runs to the store and the roads are tough even though some of the snow is packed down.

“Well they are nasty,” said Russ Cox of Olive Branch. “I mean they are not too bad if you have a four-wheel drive. You know, I have just been from our house to the store so I can only judge from here to there, but right now I would suggest that you don’t get out unless you have to.”

TDOT and ArDOT officials say they’re more concerned about what’s going to happen overnight Tuesday because the worst weather isn’t over yet.

Workers are out around the clock clearing roads to keep drivers safe.

The public information officers for TDOT and ArDOT said they made a lot of progress with the sunshine Tuesday, which helped warm up the pavement despite the frigid air temperatures.

The highways in Arkansas and Tennessee were clear and much better than what we saw Monday, but it is likely going to get worse this week. Some Memphians are choosing to stay at home.

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“I drove a little bit Sunday morning to get groceries, but I have not been out on the roads at all,” said Memphis resident Alexis Johnson. “Wherever you go, give yourself plenty of time to get there and drive as slow as you can. I grew up in Kansas, and I did deal with a lot of ice, and I know whenever you hit a patch of black ice it’s important not to break, which is your first instinct.”

Right now, crews are focusing on trying to get as much snow off the roads as possible before the next round piles up on top of what’s already there.

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“We have around 10,000 lane miles that we have to cover, so by the time we get say from Memphis to the Tennessee River,” said Nichole Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. “If someone is covering I-40, that takes several hours to get from one end to other, so by the time you turn around and come back, it’s a continuous process that we have to continue to monitor and check.”

TDOT says they have 30 plows in the area, and their crews helped more than 150 motorists who were stranded over the past few days.

In Arkansas, crews added calcium to their road treatment mix Tuesday to help increase melting in such cold temperatures.

“What we’re doing on the interstates and the major highways is we’re not plowing down as far as we normally would, because that last inch or two of snow, we can then throw some of the rock salt, salt brine and combined with the sunshine, it will take care of it for us. What that allows us to do is we can then take resources, manpower and move them to some of the secondary roads, to address some of those B and C roads, the lesser-traveled highways,” said Dave Parker; a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Crews say they’re trying to get as much work done as they possibly can now because they know by the rest of the week will get worse.