The forecast calls for a bit more snow and rain before the sun arrives Friday, but road commissioners in Limestone County said Tuesday that much of the ice seemed to be in the rearview mirror.
Commissioners and the Limestone County commission chairman have all been out and about from the start of the winter storm, monitoring road conditions and helping clear roads when possible. Conditions seemed to be worse in the northern and western parts of the county, with District 2 Commissioner Danny Barksdale telling The News Courier that East Limestone fared "pretty well" compared to other districts.
"I was out most of the night," Barksdale said. "By about 2 a.m., the roads and bridges were clear here, but I don't think the other districts fared as well."
For the most part, road conditions had improved by Tuesday. Commission Chairman Collin Daly said most overpasses along Interstate 65 were "solid ice, but the roads themselves are in good shape." However, just because roads were more clear than they had been didn't mean drivers were safe to resume travel as normal.
"It's not bad in a lot of areas, but in some areas, we're going to get that black ice again," District 3 Commissioner Jason Black said. "... You won't be able to tell what's clear and what has a patch of ice on it."
He said road conditions were worse in his district as one got closer to the Tennessee River, where some residents have received nearly 3 inches of snow so far. The ice and snow had also led to tree limbs falling across the district.
Black said the problem hasn't been as bad as he thought it would be, but crews in District 3 have had to break out the equipment to remove trees or large limbs that have fallen. Meanwhile, limbs that haven't fallen but are hanging lower than usual from the ice are posing their own problem for school buses.
"There's so many limbs hanging down that are probably 7 feet off the road surface," Black said. "School buses won't be able to go under these until this ice goes off and the limbs go back up."
That doesn't mean every low-hanging limb will bounce back, though.
"Be very aware of these trees," District 4 Commissioner LaDon Townsend said. "That's the big thing. You never know when one of these trees is going to fall across your car."
Hard at work
The Limestone County EMA had declared all roads in the county impassable early Monday morning, and that declaration continued Tuesday morning before being lifted Tuesday afternoon. Commissioners reported several drivers finding themselves in ditches rather than at their destination Monday.
However, for some, it was out of necessity rather than daring or recklessness. Multiple readers shared with The News Courier the dangers they faced trying to get to work Monday or Tuesday, not including the dozens of linemen, volunteer firefighters and county employees who had to be on the roads.
"I've told everybody to just be safe," Daly said. "That's the main thing."
Commissioners also praised crews for their work to restore power and road conditions during the storm.
"The linemen and the firefighters and stuff, they were unbelievable ... how much they helped," Townsend said. "They've done all they can do. It was terrible out here (Monday) night; just the element itself was tough to work in."
They weren't the only ones working long hours, either. Townsend said he met a local convenience store employee who had been at work nearly 30 hours because they made it to their shift but no one else could make it in to relieve them. As a result, they worked the day, closed the store so they could sleep there and reopened it after waking.
What lies ahead
Temperatures on Tuesday weren't expected to make it above freezing, with wind chill values in the single digits. Snow fell most of the day in parts of Limestone County, and the National Weather Service has predicted snowfall to continue today and Thursday.
Sleet and rain are also expected. NWS' forecast for tonight includes a 90% chance of precipitation, and a transition from snow showers and sleet to rain showers overnight.
Thursday should be mostly rain with a bit of snow possible before evening. As the temperatures drop below 20 again, snow is possible, but the rain isn't expected to return until Sunday night.
District 1 Commissioner Daryl Sammet said with any luck, the sunshine Friday and Saturday will help melt off whatever remains of the ice. As for any additional ice or snow between now and then, "it's just one of those things we have to live with."
"The bridges, you can't keep those cleared off," he said. "That rain (Monday) didn't help."
Townsend said crews put sand on bridges Monday night only to have snow "put another slick layer on top of it."
Still, "I'll take snow any day over the ice," he said. "We can control the snow. We can't do anything with this ice."