The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 29, 2014

Winter storm lingers with freezing temperatures


Northeast of Birmingham in Etowah County, police used a military-style armored vehicle to take home 14 children who weren't able to leave a high school.

Republican state Rep. Mack Butler of Rainbow City spent Tuesday night sleeping in a truck at a gas station in Birmingham, where other stranded motorists sought refuge. Butler said he was headed to a meeting of the Legislature on Tuesday afternoon in Montgomery when he had to stop because interstate highways were impassable and littered with hundreds of wrecked and abandoned vehicles.

"It looked like the zombie apocalypse," Butler said Wednesday.

There was a bright spot: Electricity stayed on for most people.

Alabama Power, the state's largest electric utility, reported no problems in central and south Alabama. Alabama Power and other utilities reported about 21,000 customers without power in south Alabama at the height of the storm, but that was reduced to less than 4,000 by late Wednesday morning.

"That's less than the typical thunderstorms that move through in summer," Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman said.

Roads were closed across much of the state overnight because of severe icing, and state troopers said weather was likely to blame for three traffic deaths. Streets in downtown Montgomery were solid white with a layer of frozen snow, and state government was shut down through noon Thursday like thousands of schools, businesses and local government offices.

Forecasters said temperatures should rise above freezing Wednesday, but not by much so it was unknown whether roads would thaw enough to allow traffic to move normally.

It didn't take much snow to bring normal life to a halt: The National Weather Service said as much as 4 inches of snow fell in spots, although most areas received less.

In Birmingham, where residents were caught off guard because forecasters had predicted only a trace of precipitation and no travel problems, about 2 inches of snow and ice coated roads.

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