Storm Brought Gridlock On I-55
If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
OAKLAND – By Tuesday morning there was little evidence of the massive gridlock on I-55 from last week’s winter storm, only a single 18-wheeler remained stuck blocking one lane of traffic.
“He was loaded and nobody could get him out,” Yalobusha County EMA Director Dalton Coleman explained.
Coleman was among dozens of first responders who logged long hours last week on the interstate during frequent closures, especially on Wednesday and Thursday nights after the traffic came to a complete standstill for hours due to icy road conditions.
“It was two cold, long nights,” Coleman said about the effort that included support from fire fighters from Oakland and Tillatoba fire departments, state troopers, Yalobusha County deputies, MDOT workers and good samaritans. The lines of 18-wheelers trying to deliver loads to depleted shelves across the region stretched for what seemed like miles when the traffic stopped on the interstate – the big trucks and even smaller vehicles couldn’t pull the hills or just slid off the road, blocking traffic.
With each stalled vehicle, the blockage would escalate as approaching vehicles were forced to stop. Coleman said the affected area stretched from south of the Tillatoba exit to the Enid exit. Some truckers attempted to get off I-55 and go over to Hwy. 51, but didn’t fare much better on the highway.
“The 18-wheelers were getting stuck on the highways. A lot of the southbound traffic, as far as regular cars, were also trying to get on Hwy. 51. We had multiple cars end up in ditches there on Hwy. 32 by the gas stations at the Oakland exit,” Coleman added.
The added gridlock prompted authorities to close the exit ramps and many truckers spent the night in their rigs, with reports of some spending almost 12 hours waiting on the interstate to reopen. A few even ran out of fuel, according to troopers at the scene.
Coleman said that at one point, when the southbound lanes reopened, fire fighters from Tillatoba used the still closed northbound lanes to travel south to get to the parked trucks and wake up the operators so they could get rolling again.
“It was bad out there. One of the MDOT workers said he wasn’t even going to put ice in his ice water any more, he didn’t ever want to ever see ice again,” Coleman added.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol reported that the northbound interstate lanes were scheduled to be closed Tuesday morning from 8:30 to 12:30 p.m. to extract that last 18-wheeler that left the road between Oakland and Tillatoba at Tillatoba Creek, removing the last visible evidence of the gridlock.