By ADRIAN SAINZ
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Emergency crews were at the ready today and residents have been stocking up on groceries, buying electricity generators and gassing up their cars in advance of a winter storm that forecasters predict will bring freezing rain and ice into northern Mississippi and West Tennessee.
The National Weather Service said winter storm warnings and watches and an ice storm warning were in effect for northern Mississippi and West Tennessee today. Forecasters were anticipating precipitation that could remain frozen on streets, highways and sidewalks due to temperatures in the 30s or below.
Tennessee officials declared a state of emergency for the western and middle parts of the state Thursday, warning residents of potentially hazardous road travel and the possibility that downed trees and power lines could knock out electricity to homes and businesses. County officials advised residents to prepare to be without power for a few days.
Schools in the West Tennessee counties of Carroll, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood and Tipton will be closed today.
In Dyer County, Tenn., emergency management director James Medling said residents were taking the storm seriously. One shelter was on standby, and farmers were also ready to protect crops and livestock.
"We're looking at ice and snow and sleet and freezing rain, just the whole gambit," Medling said.
In Shelby County, Mayor Mark Luttrell was reminding residents to check on family and friends who are elderly, disabled or live alone. The county, which includes Memphis, had eight trucks equipped with salt and cinders to spread on icy roads as needed. Three tree crews were on standby for downed limbs, officials said.
The Tennessee Valley Authority said crews were being pre-positioned in five staging areas to allow a quick, coordinated response with workers from local power distributors. TVA's emergency operations centers in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville were on stand-by, prepared to provide additional support, the company said.
Memphis Gas Light & Water, the city's main utility, also had crews preparing to fix power lines.
"We're ready to roll," spokeswoman Jackie Reed said.
Shipping giant FedEx, which has its worldwide hub in Memphis, was monitoring the situation with its team of meteorologists and was prepared to make contingencies such as moving package volume to other airports in its network, company spokesman Scott Fielder said.