Roads remain closed under ice
by Star staff
Jan 29, 2014 | 7507 views |  0 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Traffic was stalled Tuesday at the intersection of Henry Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway in Anniston at the height of the snowstorm. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Traffic was stalled Tuesday at the intersection of Henry Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway in Anniston at the height of the snowstorm. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Most of the snow that fell Tuesday in northeastern Alabama is still around this morning, much of it in the form of ice making most roads unsafe for travel, according to local officials.

The Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency this morning said that anyone in a safe place should stay there.

“With the roads being impassable we ask that people do not get out unless it is an absolute emergency,” said Tammy Bain, a spokeswoman for the EMA.

As much as 4 inches of snow fell on Anniston and other parts of north and central Alabama Tuesday in a storm that had been expected to hit farther south.

A hard freeze warning remains in effect for much of the region, with temperatures not expected to warm above freezing in many places, and forecast to fall into the lower to middle teens again overnight, according to the National Weather Service.

Local police and the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office said they knew of no one who had to spend the night in a vehicle stranded on icy roads in the county. Officers and deputies spent much of Tuesday afternoon and evening ferrying home children and staff who’d been stuck at school when the day’s surprise snowstorm struck.

Matthew Wade, chief deputy of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office said this morning that deputies got the last students in the county system home from schools in Saks “well after 9” Tuesday night. Deputies drove surplus military vehicles with four-wheel drive.

“We made it work,” Wade said. “All those kids were in good spirits. We were thankful to be able to get them home.”

Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said the last Oxford students made it home around 4:30 p.m., with help from police officers and the Fire Department.

Anniston schools Superintendent Joan Frazier said her last students made it home at about 9:30 p.m., thanks to the help of Anniston police, firefighters, the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board, the city's Public Works Department and many parents who picked up their neighbor’s children in addition to their own. City Councilman David Reddick, she said, ferried children home from Randolph Park Elementary School in his own four-wheel-drive vehicle. School staff who stayed with students then were taken home or to a local hotel.

“The assistance that we received … I don’t know how we’re ever going to say ‘thank you’ enough,” Frazier said this morning.

Local schools plan to remain closed today and Thursday. Jacksonville State University and Gadsden State Community College have canceled classes for today.

Other students around the state may have been less lucky. Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett, who was working temporarily as a spokesman for the Alabama EMA’s recovery efforts Wednesday morning, said an estimated 950 students sheltered at Birmingham City schools overnight, while 1,000 students spend the night at Jefferson County schools and another 1,500 were stuck overnight in Shelby County schools.

Corbett said it still wasn’t clear how many motorists remained stranded, statewide, on Wednesday morning, though state officials worked through Tuesday night to rescue as many as possible.

Cleburne County declared a curfew Tuesday night beginning at 6 p.m., county administrator Steve Swafford said. He said the county may declare another curfew tonight.

“The roads are probably at their worst point right now,” he said in a telephone interview at 11 a.m. “We’ve had some thawing and re-freezing.”

Swafford said Cleburne County had between 60 and 70 traffic accidents Tuesday before the curfew took effect. After the curfew, there was only one wreck, on Interstate 20.

“It was someone who would not have known about the curfew,” he said. State law allows sheriffs and some other county officials to declare curfews Swafford said. Curfew violators can be cited, similar to the punishment for a traffic violation.

Gov. Robert Bentley met with members of his cabinet Wednesday morning to discuss the weather situation, according to state officials and Twitter messages from cabinet members. Via Twitter, the governor's office said as that many as 4,000 students statewide were in schools overnight, and that state aircraft were being used to search for stranded drivers in Jefferson and Shelby counties.

Alabama Department of Transportation spokesman Tony Harris said residents statewide should consider all roads hazardous today, and should avoid travel if possible. Those who do travel should use extreme caution, Harris said.

“"In many parts of Alabama, temperatures will not rise above freezing today, which means all bridges should be considered icy," he said.

Patridge warned residents against driving, as much of the snow on roads has turned to ice. As elsewhere, roads in Oxford remained officially closed.

“Once it turns into a sheet of ice you’re just sliding around all over the place,” Partridge said. “The best thing to do is just stay off the roadway.”

Randy Childs, assistant chief of the Jacksonville Fire Department, said firefighters put out one house fire on Maple Lane in that city on Tuesday. No one was injured in the blaze, though the family had to escape and spent the night with neighbors. This morning, Childs said, his department helped firefighters in Piedmont with a fire there.

Star staff members Ben Cunningham and Tim Lockette contributed reporting for this article.

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