PEARL – The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi Department of Transportation are reminding residents to prepare for winter weather over the next several days in Mississippi. The National Weather Service says that Mississippi will see widespread freezing conditions lasting for several hours tonight, Friday night and again early next week.

“This is unusually early for us to see these low temperatures,” said MEMA Executive Director Robert Latham. “The key is to make sure that our most vulnerable citizens are checked on regularly, especially children and the elderly. Also, don’t forget about pets.”

The NWS forecast also calls for a wintry mix on Sunday night for some areas in North Mississippi. This could create hazardous driving conditions in some areas, especially on bridges and overpasses.  Marshall County Emergency Management and the Mississippi Highway Patrol reports two people died in a two vehicle accident this morning due to icy conditions on a bridge on Highway 78 near Red Banks.

“The safety of the traveling public is our top priority,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “We encourage everyone to buckle up, drive safely, stay alert and slow down, especially when driving in winter weather conditions.”

MDOT offers these winter weather driving safety tips:

  • buckle up for safety;
  • slow down, especially when driving in winter weather conditions;
  • allow more space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you;
  • brake early to allow plenty of time to stop;
  • brake gently to avoid skidding and never slam on the brakes;
  • turn on lights to be more visible to other motorists;
  • do not use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads;
  • avoid distractions while driving;
  • stay alert and look farther ahead in traffic than you normally do; and
  • watch out for other drivers- don’t assume everyone else is driving as safely as you.

MEMA recommends the following precautions for the cold weather:

  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water. Use space heaters with automatic shut-off switches.
  • Keep heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes. Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
  • Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage or near the air intake of your home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not use generator or appliances if they are wet.
  • Do not store gasoline indoors where fumes could ignite.
  • Never use charcoal grills or portable gas camp stove indoors – the fumes are deadly.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns. Avoid using candles.

Some counties are opening cold weather shelters for residents. To find out if there is one in your area contact your county emergency management office.

For additional preparedness information, contact your county emergency management agency, or go to MEMA’s website at www.msema.org. The best way to get up-to-date information is to “Like” MEMA on Facebook, or “Follow” us on twitter. For travel conditions around the state please visit www.mstraffic.com.