published Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Snow coats north AL; state of emergency in effect

  • photo
    Vehicles slowly make their way on a snow-covered Alabama state Route 35, today in Fort Payne, Ala. Residents woke to a blanket of snow that was expected to continue throughout the morning hours.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

By JAY REEVES

Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Snow and a thin layer of ice blanketed north Alabama this morning, and forecasters said more was on the way.

A winter storm dropped from 1 inch to 3 inches of wintry precipitation across a wide area, turning trees and roads white and forcing hundreds of schools, businesses and government offices to close or open late.

Travel problems were reported north of the Birmingham metro area, but Alabama's most populous region was mostly free of freezing precipitation.

Forecasters said temperatures would rise above freezing in many areas during the day, but another freeze was predicted overnight.

In the state's northeastern corner, Brandy Aaron made it to work before dawn at a store near Little River Canyon thanks to a ride from her husband. A few people stopped by for coffee, but not many.

"It's pretty. All the trees are covered up now," said Aaron. "We got 3 or 4 inches, and it's still coming down. I hope it stays like this and doesn't become disastrous."

About 50 miles north of the metro area, more than 1 inch of snow and ice covered roads in Cullman.

"They're becoming extremely hazardous," said Phyllis Little, Cullman County's emergency management director. "We'd like for folks to just stay home and enjoy the snow."

Michelle Owen of Mt. Pleasant, Tenn., was driving north of Interstate 65 near Cullman this morning when she hit an icy patch on a bridge. Her sport-utility vehicle and a car trailer she was pulling fishtailed, sending her 18-year-old son Tyler through the rear window and on to the car that was on the trailer.

"He wound up on top of the Mustang we were hauling," she said.

An ambulance took the teen to a hospital with minor injuries, and a state trooper drove Owen to be with him.

"Oh my gosh," Owen said, shaking in the back seat of the trooper car. "I thought it was just rain."

Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency, and school systems closed or opened late as far south as Birmingham's southern suburbs. Businesses also delayed opening or shut down; some rented blocks of hotel rooms for employees.

Forecasters said the real problem could be tonight and Wednesday, as more precipitation falls and temperatures dip below freezing. The weather service said northeast Alabama could get an additional 4 inches of ice and snow.

Northern counties were under a winter storm warning through Wednesday night.

Officials urged drivers to stay off roads in hopes of avoiding a repeat of Jan. 28, when thousands of people were stranded at work and on roads after about 2 inches of snow and ice fell in central Alabama. More than 11,000 children had to spend the night in public schools because buses couldn't travel slippery roads and parents couldn't reach schools

State troopers investigated seven weather-related wrecks that killed 10 people. The last victim died Friday in a Tuscaloosa hospital from injuries received Jan. 28, troopers said.

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