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News
Second storm leaves a snowy Crossroads

The much-anticipated snowflakes finally came for several hours Wednesday evening, compounding the travel challenges left by a sleet storm but adding another layer of fun for young sledders who have taken over many residential streets.

A second, lighter round of snow came during the day on Thursday.

It was generally a 3- to 4-inch snowfall across the Crossroads area, according to actual readings and estimates from the National Weather Service Memphis Forecast Office. The western half of Alcorn County received more snowfall than the east side, and an area north of Walnut fell into the 4- to 6-inch bracket, reflecting the larger accumulations heading west toward Memphis.

In Alcorn County, MSU Extension Service County Director Patrick Poindexter took a 3.75-inch reading at his home in Glen.

Many people continued to stay indoors as the second winter storm moved through just two days after the last one amid forbiddingly cold temperatures. In the First District, Supervisor Lowell Hinton said he was not aware of any bad accidents that had occurred – just a few cases of cars sliding into ditches.

“The biggest problem we have is the sleet that came first has formed a solid sheet of ice right next to the ground, and the snow has fell on top of it,” he said. “If we move the snow, we’ve got a solid sheet of ice. It’s easier to drive on the snow than what’s under the snow.”

His workers have sanded intersections and some of the uphill spots, he said.

Hinton said it has been one of the worst messes he has had to deal with since becoming a supervisor.

In the city, Public Works Director Clayton Mills had workers on South Harper Road clearing in the area of the justice center Thursday afternoon. With the temperature rising to 30 on Thursday, he said a bit of melting was evident. He was concerned that would make the street conditions more dangerous today. Re-freezing will also be a concern tonight with temperatures dropping into the mid-teens.

“Roads are probably going to be very slick,” he said.

The crews will continue to be out working, said Mills.

Mail delivery was again suspended on Thursday because of the snowfall.

The meeting of the Corinth Board of Mayor and Aldermen which had been rescheduled to this morning is now moved to 10 a.m. Monday.

City trash collection is set to resume on Monday at the regular times, said Mills. In the county, Waste Connections also suspended trash pickup this week and will resume the normal schedule on Monday.

After a memorable week in the deep freeze, the high temperature will approach 60 by Tuesday.


News
Local students finally get 'snow day'

CHILDRESS

Corinth and Alcorn County students are finally getting a “snow day.”

For the sixth day of Mississippi’s historic 2021 winter storm, local school officials are using the governor’s State of Emergency declaration and the state’s department of education make-up day waiver to give families extra time to build a snowman on Friday.

“Our staff and our kids deserve this,” said Alcorn County Interim Superintendent Brandon Quinn. “They have worked so hard this week during this virtual learning time.”

Due to the unsafe traveling conditions caused by ice and snow and the extremely cold temperatures, both the city and county school districts have kept students at home this week and required distance learning to be counted present.

In the Alcorn School District, students were out for Presidents Day on Monday while staff participated in their first ever virtual professional development day. They then went virtual Tuesday through Thursday. The Corinth School District was virtual the entire week, Monday through Thursday. Both districts saw what was coming last Friday and prepared wisely. They sent home learning packets and also ensured students took home devices.

“We knew there was a good chance we would need to go virtual this week,” said Corinth School District Superintendent Lee Childress. “Being able to flip the switch on Monday is a true testament to our teachers and students.”

Childress and Quinn both agree the implementation of virtual learning last spring during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the quick transition to distance learning this week.

“Corinth has been a 1:1 (device) district for many years, but we had not attempted any virtual learning until the pandemic,” said Childress. “It is really remarkable that we are at this point. It speaks volumes for the teachers and students being able to adapt so effortlessly. I think it’s a greater part of what our future in education will look like.”

Quinn is praising his staff as well.

“Their willingness has been amazing,” he said. “We are at the point where both students and teachers are so comfortable with distance learning.”

Both districts are expected to return to regular in-person class on Monday.

“Looks like we will be met with normal spring weather when we return,” said Childress.

Quinn added that not only will classes return, but sports as well.

“We have tournament basketball games that were canceled three or four times this week – all of those have been moved to next week, and I actually think we will be able to get them in,” he said.


News
Free tax assistance available

Free tax filling assistance is available thanks to a national program from the AARP Foundation.

The AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program offers free assistance in helping residents file taxes and the help is totally free.

Local coordinator Lett Florendo said they plan to begin offering assistance at the Corinth VFW on Purdy School Road beginning February 22, weather permitting. If they cannot open on Monday, they will have their first day on Saturday, February 27. Appointments will be offered Mondays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the VFW through April 12. An appointment is required for assistance.

The help is available for taxpayers of all ages and participants do not have to be an AARP member.

Those who use the program should bring:

For a married couple filing jointly, both spouses must be present

n Photo ID for you and your spouse (if married)

n Social Security cards or ITIN documents for you, your spouse and/or dependents

n Birth dates for you, spouse and/or dependents

n Copy of last year’s tax return

n All forms W-2, 1098 and 1099

n 1095 if you purchased insurance through the Marketplace (Exchange)

n Information for other income

n Information for all deductions/credits

n Proof of savings or checking account ad routing numbers (for direct deposit of refund)

AARP Tax-Aide is the largest free, volunteer-based tax preparation service in the country, staffed with trained and IRS-certified volunteers.

For more information, visit aarpfoundation.org/taxaide

To make an appointment for assistance in Alcorn County call 662-287-6106.


AP
Some power restored in Texas but water woes persist

AUSTIN, Texas — Power was restored to more homes and businesses in Texas on Thursday after a deadly blast of winter this week overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions shivering in the cold. But the crisis was far from over, with many people still in need of safe drinking water.

Fewer than a half-million homes remained without electricity, although utility officials said limited rolling blackouts could still occur.

The storms also left more than 320,000 homes and businesses without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. About 70,000 power outages persisted after an ice storm in eastern Kentucky, while nearly 67,000 were without electricity in West Virginia.

Snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast. Back-to-back storms left 15 inches (38 centimeters) of snow in Little Rock, Arkansas, tying a 1918 record, the National Weather Service said.

The extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of over three dozen people, some while trying to keep warm. In the Houston area, one family died from carbon monoxide as their car idled in their garage. A woman and her three grandchildren were killed in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using.

In Texas on Thursday, just under 500,000 homes and businesses remained without power, down from about 3 million a day earlier. The state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the remaining outages are largely weather-related, rather than forced blackouts that began Monday to stabilize the power grid.

“We will keep working around the clock until every single customer has their power back on,” said ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin.

Woodfin warned that rotating outages could return if electricity demand rises as people get power and heating back, though they wouldn’t last as long as outages earlier this week.

Adding to the state’s misery, the weather jeopardized drinking water systems. Authorities ordered 7 million people – a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state – to boil tap water before drinking it, following record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and pipes.

Water pressure fell after lines froze, and many people left faucets dripping to prevent pipes from icing over, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and preserve pressure in municipal systems.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he expects that residents in the nation’s fourth-largest city will have to boil tap water before drinking it until Sunday or Monday.

Some Austin hospitals lost water pressure and heat. But because the problem was statewide and affected other facilities, “no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.

Two of Houston Methodist’s community hospitals had no running water but still treated patients, with most non-emergency surgeries and procedures canceled for Thursday and possibly Friday, and burst pipes were repaired as they happened, said spokeswoman Gale Smith.

Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity,” Smith said.

Texas Children’s Hospital’s main campus at the Texas Medical Center and another location had low water pressure, but the system was adequately staffed and patients had enough water and “are safe and comfortable,” spokeswoman Jenn Jacome said.

FEMA sent generators to support water treatment plants, hospitals and nursing homes in Texas, along with thousands of blankets and ready-to-eat meals, officials said. The Texas Restaurant Association also said it was coordinating donations of food to hospitals.

Weather-related outages also hit Oregon, where some have been without power for nearly a week. A Portland supermarket threw perishable food into the trash, leading to a clash between scavengers and police.

The damage to the power system was the worst in 40 years, said Maria Pope, CEO of Portland General Electric. At the peak of the storm, more than 350,000 customers in the Portland area were in the dark, and more than 100,000 Oregon customers remained without power Thursday.

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease strained power grids. Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states from the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle, said rolling blackouts were no longer needed, but it asked customers to conserve energy until at least 10 p.m. Saturday.

The weather also disrupted water systems in several Southern cities, including New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana, where fire trucks delivered water to hospitals and bottled water was brought in for patients and staff, Shreveport television station KSLA reported.

Power was cut to a New Orleans facility that pumps drinking water from the Mississippi River. A spokeswoman for the Sewerage and Water Board said on-site generators were used until electricity was restored.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt pleaded with residents to limit water usage, and Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said most customers were without water, with no timeline on when it would be restored. At least 19,000 residents were without power there.

As the storms marched east, 12 people had to be rescued Wednesday night from boats after a dock weighed down by snow and ice collapsed on Tennessee’s Cumberland River, the Nashville Fire Department said. Elsewhere in the state, a 9-year-old boy was killed when the tube his father was pulling behind an ATV slammed into a mailbox.

A 69-year-old Arkansas man was found dead Wednesday after falling into a frozen pond while trying to rescue a calf. In Kentucky, a 77-year-old woman was found dead of likely hypothermia Wednesday night after two days without power and heat.

A man fell through the ice on the Detroit River on Wednesday night and likely drowned, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said. The man walked onto the ice just off Belle Isle, Michigan, about 5 p.m. and began “jumping up and down,” Lt. Jeremiah Schiessel said. Crews were unable to reach the spot where the man was last seen because the ice was too thin, Schiessel said.

Before the wintry weather moved on, parts of Texas got more snow.

Del Rio, along the U.S.-Mexico border, got nearly 10 inches (25.4 cm) Thursday, surpassing the city’s one-day record for snowfall. City officials asked residents to conserve electricity.

Up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) were forecast for San Antonio, and Mayor Ron Nirenberg urged residents to stay off treacherous roads.

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Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press journalists Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon; Juan Lozano in Houston; Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; Rebecca Reynolds in Louisville, Kentucky; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Darlene Superville in Washington; and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed.


AP
Massive storms, outages force tough decisions amid pandemic

DALLAS — Ashley Archer, a pregnant, 33-year-old Texas financial adviser, and her husband have been cautious about the coronavirus. They work from home, go out mostly just to get groceries and wear masks whenever they are in public.

But when a friend lost power amid the winter storms that have left millions of Texans without heat in freezing temperatures, the couple had to make a decision: Should they take on additional risk to help someone in need?

Archer said they didn’t hesitate. They took her husband’s best friend into their suburban Dallas home.

“He’s like family,” she said. “We weren’t going to let him freeze at his place. We figured, ‘OK, we’re willing to accept a little bit of risk because you’re not in our little pandemic group.’”

Weighing the risks in the pandemic era is fraught enough. But the storms and outages that have hit a big swath of the U.S. over the past several days have added a whole new layer of complexity.

Do we open doors to the neighbors? Should we stay in a hotel or go to a shelter? And what to do about hand-washing, the most basic of precautions, when there is no running water?

The last few months have been challenging enough for Jonathan Callahan. He lost his job cleaning mail trucks in Jackson, Mississippi, and soon found himself homeless, sleeping in an abandoned church at night. Then the storm hit Mississippi this week, bringing bouts of snow and freezing cold.

Callahan, 40, was one of 14 people staying at a warming shelter at a community center in Jackson, with cots spread around the gym.

He said the space has been comfortable, meals have been provided, and he and some others played a game of pickup basketball, which “warmed us right up.”

He said he felt comfortable with the coronavirus precautions; he and most everyone else were wearing masks and there was room for distancing.

“I’m grateful they let us be here,” he said. “If we weren’t here, where would we be?”

Public health experts say that crowding people into shelters can contribute to the spread of COVID-19, but that there are ways to lower the risks, through masks and distancing.

“The ethics of the situation are simple enough,” said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, a University of Alabama at Birmingham professor of medicine and a homeless health researcher who runs a clinic for homeless veterans. “We can’t protect people tomorrow if they die today. Warming stations are needed.”

The storms that have disrupted social distancing precautions and thrown people from different households together have also undermined the nation’s vaccination drive, with tens of thousands of vaccine doses stranded and inoculations canceled. Concern is mounting in some places.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday he is thinking of sending the National Guard into the South to bring back held-up shipments of vaccine earmarked for the state. He said the state can’t afford to go a week without getting any new doses.

And North Carolina vaccine providers have yet to receive tens of thousands of doses the federal government was set to deliver this week, state officials said.

Like Archer, Ella Ewart-Pierce, a public health analyst, said her family has been especially cautious about the coronavirus because her husband is in a vulnerable group. The Dallas couple has been working from home, avoiding places where people gather and getting groceries delivered.

But when they lost power, the risk calculation shifted. Ewart-Pierce said they decided to take their young kids to a hotel Monday after their home became so cold they had to shut off the water to keep the pipes from bursting.

“It was 13 degrees outside and our house was 38 degrees inside,” Ewart-Pierce said. “The kids were already crying because they were cold even though they were wearing all their clothes.”

When the family arrived at the hotel they plan to stay at until Sunday, “it was a scene,” said Ewart-Pierce.

“There was one lady trying to figure out where to buy formula for her baby. There are families and a lady in a wheelchair with a blanket. It’s a hotel that has pets, so there were dogs,” she said.

They’re taking precautions while there, she said, including wearing two face masks each and keeping their distance from other people. With the hotel’s restaurant open but dining in prohibited, they’re eating on the floor of their room.

In Austin, Anissa Ryland also was forced to move her family to a hotel. She, her husband and their five children lost power at their 115-year-old home around 2 a.m. Monday and left following a frigid night.

When they returned Tuesday to pick up supplies, the thermostat read just 7 degrees above freezing, and icicles had begun to form.

Under normal circumstances, the family could stay with neighbors or family, but the pandemic has made that harder. For one thing, one of her children has a compromised immune system, she said.

“You have to weigh the risks and say, ‘Danger now versus a theoretical risk,’” Ryland said. “How do you do that? It’s a hard discussion.”

Despite the weather challenges, people still need to try to take precautions amid the coronavirus fatigue they have endured and continue wearing masks while trying to social distance, said Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello, a New York-based public health expert who has worked in the field for two decades.

“If you have no heat in your home and it’s 40 degrees in your home, in those situations, it is not necessarily safe for you to be in your own home so you may be forced to go to someone else’s home,” she said. “I think it’s challenging, it’s a balance. I think if people are gathering with people they know are vaccinated, there may be less of a risk there.”

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Bleiberg reported from Dallas, Willingham from Jackson, Mississippi, and Noveck from New York. Associated Press writers Carla K. Johnson in Washington state; Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, N.C.; Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas; Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles; and Mark Pratt in Boston also contributed.


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