- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - South Mississippi residents welcomed the big thaw Thursday as temperatures rapidly began rising toward 50 degrees, melting remaining ice on roads and bridges.

As of 12:30 p.m. Thursday all of South Mississippi’s major bridges were open and allowing motorists across.

The Biloxi Bay Bridge, Popp’s Ferry Bridge and Wilkes Draw Bridge were the latest to re-open. The Biloxi Bay Bridge opened at 12:20 p.m., while the latter two opened just around noon.

Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said Interstate 110 is open after being blocked off in several spots south of Division Street. He said traffic has been extensively backed up on the highway, but that’s because the Mississippi Department of Transportation was dropping brine right around the same time Keesler Air Force Base was opening its gates.

There are still a few smaller bridges closed, including the Corso Bridge in D’Iberville and the David LaRosa bridge near Pass Christian. Since those have smaller traffic counts, crews were getting to those last.

“It’s getting better,” said Jackson County Emergency Services Director Earl Etheridge. “We are still getting some reports of ice on the roads, mostly in the north part of the county, but it’s spotty. It’s not the whole road like it was yesterday.”

All of the bridges in the city of Gulfport are now open as well, according to a city news release.

Hancock County leaders say most of their roads are in good shape. Pearl River County’s EMA director said the same thing. Roads near Picayune and Poplarville have little or no ice on them.

Roads in south Mississippi were getting into good shape but some icing remained, according to the Highway Patrol and MDOT.

The Mississippi River bridge between Natchez, Miss., and Vidalia, La., was opened late Wednesday. MDOT crews were continuing to de-ice the bridge that was closed about 7 p.m. Tuesday as a precaution.

Some south Mississippi schools reopened Thursday while others were taking another snow day.

National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Brigsby said temperatures began the day in the low 20s or mid-teens depending on the distance from the coast but were expected to jump to 50 degrees by mid-afternoon.

“It’s looking much better. It’s starting off cold but should warm up quite a bit,” he said. “It’s still about 10 degrees colder than what we should be this time of year, but it’s a vast improvement over what we have experienced the last couple of days.”

Brigsby said any lingering ice should completely melt during the afternoon hours and by Saturday temperatures across Mississippi will be pushing 70 degrees.

Harrison County Emergency Management liaison officer Carlos Redmon said as temperatures come up, bridges will start to open. He said all other roads were looking good.

“We’re telling people if they don’t have to be on the road then don’t be on the road. If they have to, stay to the main thoroughfares and be cautious of the small bridges on back roads. Most of those are doing good from the reports we’re getting, but there’s always a chance,” Redmon said.

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