On the coast, snow covered grass and sidewalks in Orange Beach. Ice-covered roads forced mass closings even in Mobile, where ice coated ornate iron balconies.
No one knew exactly how many people were stranded, but some major employers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield had hundreds of people sleeping in offices overnight. Workers watched movies on their laptops, and office cafeterias gave away food.
Stephanie Reynolds, a second-grade teacher, spent the night with about 10 students and two dozen co-workers at Meadow View Elementary School in Alabaster. Many of the children's parents were stuck in cars in roadways and unable to pick up their kids, she said.
Reynolds comforted crying children, played games and did lesson plans for two weeks. A dance party helped fill up a few minutes, and the school dietitian stayed to make pizza for dinner and biscuits and gravy for breakfast.
"The students have been here so long: all day yesterday, overnight and now," said Reynolds. "I'm going on no sleep right now. I didn't even try. I figured since I was here I might as well be productive."
Fire trucks took two children home from the school overnight, and firefighters were planning more runs after daybreak. About 20 miles north, around 110 children and 30 adults camped out on exercise mats in classrooms at Oak Mountain Intermediate School, said principal Pat LeQuier.
"We sang 'Happy Brithday' to two children who actually had birthdays yesterday," she said.
In Hoover, police said they rescued about 200 people who were stuck overnight in cars on Interstate 65 or I-459 as temperatures fell to near 10 degrees. About 4,500 children and adults spent the night in schools, and as many as 800 people were in shelters, said police Capt. Jim Coker.
"We are going in to a meeting to discuss returning people to their cars and future operations today," said Coker.