Published 11:01 pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

Troy University students built a snowman at Tailgate Terrace.

Troy University students built a snowman at Tailgate Terrace.

Orlando Pacheco ventured out Thursday morning without a coat. A short-sleeve t-shirt was all that the Pittsburgh transplant needed as temperatures reached into the low 40s.

“I realize the weather was bad with the snow, but it’s not that bad today,” he said.

Pacheco, like many throughout Pike County, was enjoying the thaw after Winter Storm Leon brought a quarter inch of ice, two inches of snow and more than 48 hours of below-freezing temperatures to Pike County.

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With 56 hours of the winter weather behind him, Troy Mayor Jason Reeves was still not breathing easily Thursday evening.

“Actually, I’m a little bit more nervous because we’re so close to the end,” he said. “You don’t want to run a marathon and get to the last 100 yards and fall.

“If somebody gets hurt, it’s not going to matter if it happens in the very beginning or in the end.”

While most of the city roads melted on Thursday, Reeves said he was concerned because the clearing was “several hours behind where we expected it to be.” He attributed that to the bitter cold on Wednesday night.

“It was so cold last night,” he said. “We got down to 8 degrees at the airport.” And in turn frozen roads took longer to warm and thaw on Thursday.

Temperatures fell to 6 degrees Thursday morning, according to meteorologist Jessica Chase at the National Weather Service. Roadways were deemed safe to drive once the midday sun melted away much of the ice that covered them.

Pike County can expect more of the same today. Chase said temperatures were expected to rise above freezing by 10 a.m. today and remain above freezing throughout the weekend.

“And highs will reach up to the mid to upper 50s,” she said.

With overnight temperatures forecast in the 20s overnight Thursday, Reeves said many roads were likely to refreeze presenting new hazards. “(Friday) there are going to be more people out and they are going to be more comfortable on the roads,” he said.

Several icy patches remained Thursday evening. “We had to close Pell Avenue because there was a long, sheet of ice that was too hard to sand,” he said. “I just left Troy Elementary School, and Vaughan Daniels is sanding and salting a couple of areas on Gibbs Street.

“And George Wallace, while it’s better than it was (Thursday) morning, still has icy patches.”

Those roads are likely to be well-travelled Friday morning, as classes resume at Troy City Schools, Pike Liberal Arts and Troy University. And Reeves said he cautions drivers to realize that some areas will refreeze overnight, and others may not have melted yet.

“We just want people to drive slowly,” he said. “You can deal with a lot of things if you drive at a speed that’s conducive to the conditions. You just can’t drive like you normally do.”

He also urged residents to be careful and cautious on sidewalks and walkways. “We’ve probably had more injuries from slips and falls than we have from car wrecks,” he said.

Jeanna Barnes, director of Pike County Emergency Management, said a few issues arose during the storm, but she was pleased with the way the county handled them.

“With any event, we don’t expect things to go perfectly smooth. Of course, we had some complications arise. But I feel that we managed everything extremely well considering this was a historic event and a type of situation we don’t see often,” she said.

By Thursday evening, State Trooper Kevin Cook said troopers had worked 12 crashes in Pike County since Tuesday. There were eight crashes Tuesday, three on Wednesday and one Thursday. None of the wrecks had injuries.

Cook said things were almost back to normal.

“Slowly but surely, we’re getting there,” he said. “The roads are still slick. We are urging motorists to stay off the roads.”

It was business as usual for the City of Brundidge on Thursday as garbage trucks rolled and city services resumed, and Britt Thomas was thankful.

“We’ve been blessed, blessed,” said Thomas, who is city manager for Brundidge. “We didn’t have any problems … and today our roads are clear in town, except maybe a few spots in the shade.

“Considering everything, we weathered the storm just fine.”

Thomas said an emergency response crew was on standby both Tuesday and Wednesday, “but in the end it didn’t matter, because we were blessed.”

Most of the residents heeded officials’ warnings to stay inside as the winter storm hit. “During the hardest times, during the worst parts, there were not a lot of people out,” he said.

John Bergschneider, assistant county engineer, said staying off of the roads helped his crews reopen the roads quicker. Traffic would have packed the snow down and turned it into a thicker sheet of ice.

And county officials have worked to respond quickly to any traffic issues or concerns. “It was tough, I’ll admit,” he said. “Our part of the world is just not used to this.”

“Slowly but surely, we’re getting there,” he said Thursday evening. “The roads are still slick. We are urging motorists to stay off the roads.”

Throughout the community, business began to return to normal, as well. Domino’s Pizza opened for carryout service Thursday and slowly started delivering as roads cleared.

“It’s been pretty busy today – even without delivery,” said Kassi Lewis, a shift runner at Domino’s. “There are some back roads that we still aren’t delivering to.”

Most South Alabama Electric Cooperative customers were unaffected by this week’s tumultuous weather. Spokeswoman Chellie Phillips said there were very few issues in their coverage area.

“We had one outage that affected a few people in Coffee County,” she said. “Our biggest issue is getting the trucks out to people.”

The storm had quite an impact on Brannon Golden Trucking.

“We lost probably $15,000 on that storm,” said Brannon Golden, owner of the business. The business hauls freight in 48 states.

“We haul a lot of poultry. The people that we haul to in Mississippi are out of product all because the places here where we get the chickens were closed,” Golden said.

The trucks still in the yard were iced in and two truck drivers were stranded in Birmingham. Stranded vehicles blocked one of the truckers in, keeping him from leaving Highway 280 until 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

“People that lived on the road he was stranded on were feeding him,” Golden said.

Jeff Grosenbach, general manager of Ruby Tuesdays, came in for his off day to pitch in Wednesday. The restaurant stayed open until 4 p.m., when the crowd became more than a staff of four could handle.

“It was crazy,” he said. “It was Comedy Central. It was me, one other manager, a cook and a waitress. Guests were all helping out. I had regulars waiting tables. We just tried to make it as fun as possible.”

Grosenbach had experience working in restaurants during hurricanes. He said guests are always grateful to find an open door and working on a day like that can get overwhelming. His manager made the decision to open and hope for the best.

“He wouldn’t heed my warning,” Grosenbach said.

If he had it to do all over again, Grosenbach would still have opened the restaurant.

“But I would’ve coerced a few more people to come in to work,” he said.

The storm gave Troy University student Langley Vannoy a chance to hang out and have fun with fellow members of the golf team.

“We’re usually practicing or studying,” she said. “We’re always on the golf course. But, we got to skip workouts.”

She and teammates took advantage of the three-day hiatus from responsibilities.

“We’ve been sledding and played tag football in the snow. But, don’t tell our coach,” said Sydney Conrad.

They had snowball fights and spent a few minutes Thursday afternoon erecting a snowman in Tailgate Terrace.

“The snow is really perfect (for building snowmen) right now. Yesterday, it didn’t work,” Vannoy said.

Troy City Schools and Troy University will resume normal operation hours on Friday.. Pike Liberal Arts School and Pike County Schools will be closed on Friday.