- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

PEARL, Miss. (AP) - The sun emerged and the wind kept blowing Thursday afternoon while icy conditions began to ease after gripping much of Mississippi earlier in the day.

Roads across the state began to dry, raising the possibility that even bitter temperatures early Friday might not be enough to again freeze travel in some areas.

Some kids still won’t be going to school Friday, though. Mississippi’s largest public school district, DeSoto County, cancelled classes. In the state’s far northwest corner, more than 4 inches of snow was reported atop an earlier layer of sleet.

“My neighbor shoveled my sidewalk for me and it got down to the ice layer. I think that may be worse,” said Katherine Nelson, a DeSoto schools spokeswoman who lives in Southaven. She said her son-in-law drove her daughter to her hospital job Thursday at 10 mph.

“No one is moving around in my neighborhood,” Nelson said.

Friday will be the fifth snow day for DeSoto County in recent weeks. Teachers and students are already scheduled to attend school on two Saturdays as part of a makeup effort, and two more days will now have to be scheduled unless the state Board of Education waives the requirement that students attend school for 180 days.

Still, the storm was less severe than the snow and ice that fell Feb. 25. Entergy Mississippi’s power outages peaked at fewer than 10,000 before dawn Thursday, while electrical cooperatives were reporting no outages by midmorning.

“This seems to be a nonevent, but it appears that way because of the men and women on the ground who were up and doing their job throughout the night,” Gov. Phil Bryant said during a noon news conference at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in Pearl.

The most persistent power outage occurred in Fayette. Entergy spokeswoman Mara Hartmann said trees crashed into both power lines feeding the town, leaving 1,300 customers without electricity all day. Hartmann said crews were struggling to get equipment across rough and remote terrain to the downed lines.

“It all just takes a while,” she said.

The National Weather Service said 1 to 3 inches of snow and sleet fell in a band in the northernmost 50 miles of Mississippi, while parts of the Mississippi Delta reported about 2 inches.

“The cooler air kind of slid down the Delta first,” said Phil Baker, a forecaster with the Memphis office of the National Weather Service.

Only about 0.3 inches of sleet fell at Jackson-Evers International Airport, but sleet also pelted unusual far-south locations like Woodville and Waynesboro. A half-inch was recorded in Hazlehurst.

More than half of Mississippi’s public school districts cancelled classes, as did more than half of the state’s community colleges and four of its public universities. Toyota Motor Co. in Blue Springs told workers to stay home, as did state government.

On parts of U.S. 78, only one lane was clear, although a sunny afternoon gave hope for improving conditions. Some Jackson city bridges reopened Thursday afternoon.

“The sun’s very effective at melting snow, even at subfreezing temperatures,” Baker said, explaining that pavement or ground may be warmer than freezing.

Still, the Mississippi Department of Transportation warned that travel remained dangerous and urged people to stay home. State officials reported icy roads and bridges in 33 counties from Vicksburg to Corinth, but that was down from more than 55 counties at midmorning. Officials said they worried that water and slush will refreeze overnight, creating black ice, especially in northernmost counties where single-digit windchills are forecast Friday morning.

“Please stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary,” Bryant said.

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