Snow foolin’: Storm brings fun, icy roads
Published 1:11 am Thursday, January 30, 2014
Like hundreds of others on the Troy University campus, Jordan Shaver braved below-freezing temperatures and frozen streets on Wednesday.
“I’ve lived in Alabama my whole life,” said Jordan Shaver, a college senior at Troy. “But, I’ve never seen snow like this before. I love it. When else would I have the chance to make a snowman?”
While Shaver and his fellow university students took the quad for snowball fights and the practice field hills to sled, thousands of residents throughout Pike County did the same, embracing the wintry fun and braving the frigid temperatures.
“There are a lot of people out here,” said Troy Mayor Jason Reeves, as he drove along South Brundidge Street about 3 p.m. Wednesday and watched groups of students slipping and sliding as they walked down the roads. “But at their age, I would’ve been out enjoying it too.”
Winter Storm Leon stunned much of the state on Tuesday, leaving five people dead and 23 people injured as residents were stranded in vehicles and at businesses and schools in Birmingham and other areas. Forecasters had predicted up to 3 inches of snow for Pike County, and emergency personnel were hoping for the best and preparing for the west. In 10 short hours on Tuesday, the county saw more than quarter-inch of ice and upwards of two inches of snow.
“We were lucky because the precipitation early Tuesday was sleet and not freezing rain, so it didn’t accumulate on the power lines,” Reeves said. “We’ve not had any issues with power outages.”
Instead, officials faced issues with the roadways. Freezing temperatures overnight ensured residents awoke to a stunning winter wonderland on Wednesday morning and solidly frozen roads.
“It’s beautiful,” Reeves said, as he drove past the snow-covered golf course at Troy Country Club. “But look at the road; it’s all ice. “
City and county officials closed all roads to non-emergency traffic, and the Alabama Department of Transportation declared all state and federal roads in the county impassable, including U.S. 231.
Brundidge Police Chief Moses Davenport had to leave his patrol car at home Wednesday morning.
He had an officer meet him down the road and pick him up.
“The roads are bad, believe me. It’s just too hazardous to be out,” he reported while on his way to a wreck on U.S. Highway 231. “If it’s not absolutely essential, stay off the road. We’re not even requiring non-essential personnel.”
Davenport said there were no serious wrecks and no reports of casualties related to the storm.
“Just snow and ice,” he said. “Lots of snow and ice.”
Jeanna Barnes of the Pike County EMA said roads were extremely hazardous, especially with the forecasts of freezing temperatures through today.
“Temperatures shouldn’t rise above freezing until around noonish [Thursday],” Barnes said.
Lt. Bryan Weed of the Troy Police Department said officers did not see many wrecks on the road.
“We’ve just been dealing with roadway issues. They’ve been going out and assisting motorists,” he said.
At one point, four 18-wheelers were stuck in the intersection of Madison and South Brundidge streets.
After icy roads had sent 18-wheelers sliding across major roadways, law enforcement directed all traffic on U.S. Highway 231 to the Food World parking lot on South Brundidge Street.
Other truck drivers used parking lots at Walmart and Troy Market Place to wait out the hazardous conditions.
“Most of them have been good about pulling over into the parking lot,” Weed said.
Troy resident William Pynes opted to walk to Food World, one of the few businesses opened Wednesday.
“I had to get some groceries and I walked here because of the ice on the roads. It’s way too dangerous to drive,” he said. “Most people are out not because they have to be, but because they want to be. They’re just having fun.”
Despite the closure of all roadways in Pike County, many motorists ignored the warnings and discovered black ice waiting for them Wednesday morning.
Four out of five of Jerry Russell’s construction crew showed up for work Wednesday morning.
“We ain’t wimps,” Russell said.
Russell drove in to downtown Troy from Montgomery. On a normal day, the trip would have taken about 40 minutes. On Wednesday, it took Russell about an hour as he passed several vehicles in ditches.
“It ain’t that bad. We’ve worked in worse than this,” he said. “Now, what’s open? I’m hungry.”
Unfortunately for Russell, most of the businesses in Pike County were closed on Wednesday. The U.S. Postal Service didn’t deliver mail, banks closed, and even Walmart closed, with plans to reopen on Thursday as weather allows.
With overnight lows forecast at 13 degrees Wednesday, officials expected continued challenges Thursday morning. Schools and Troy University were to remain closed on Thursday, as well as Pike County offices and the courthouse. The City of Troy planned to open at noon.