Conditions worsened quickly along the Georgia line in Cleburne County as temperatures dipped below freezing. Steve Swafford, the county administrator and emergency management director, said some roads were impassable within minutes because of broken trees.
“I’m not optimistic about what’s going to happen,” Swafford said.
Along Interstate 20 in Cleburne County near the Georgia line, ice hung from tree limbs but traffic was still moving early Wednesday afternoon.
Cold rain fell across other parts of north Alabama, but forecasters said it would turn to snow and ice and blanket some areas with as much as a foot of frozen precipitation before the weather warms.
A winter storm warning covered almost the entire northern half of the state, and many schools and businesses were closed or opened late.
The National Weather Service said cities including Birmingham, Anniston and Gadsden could get a significant amount of ice by daybreak Thursday, with as much as a half-inch of ice coating trees and power lines near the Georgia state line.
The Tennessee Valley could receive snowfall accumulations ranging from 2 inches in the northwest to 7 inches in the northeast, forecasters said.
At least 15 shelters opened in seven counties, but Gov. Robert Bentley’s office said no one was in them. Trucks spread sand and salty water on roads to prevent icing.
Alabama Power didn’t report any electrical outages from the weather.
Peeking through a window, Angie Colvin watched light snow fall in DeKalb County, located in Alabama’s northeastern corner, and dreaded what might happen next.
“We’re hoping for no ice. It can put you out of power for a week up here,” said Colvin. “It’s not fun at all.”
On Tuesday, after about 6 inches of snow fell, Colvin and her husband Ronnie rolled up giant snowballs and lifted them with a tractor to make a snowman that was more than 8 feet tall.
“It warmed up some, so he was leaning a little by the end of the day,” she said.
The National Weather Service said snow and ice totals on Tuesday ranged from a trace north of Birmingham to 6 inches in DeKalb and Marshall counties.
The same areas that received a half-foot of snow could get that much snow or more by Thursday, said forecaster Brian Carcione of the National Weather Service in Huntsville.
“That area could have more than a foot total,” he said.
On top of Lookout Mountain, Terry Gillis, even using a heavy-duty ice scraper, struggled to remove a thick coating of ice from his windshield.
Gillis, an attorney, said downtown Fort Payne was largely deserted when he arrived at his law office.
“I’m down here just about alone,” Gillis said.
Gillis said the mountain got a blanket of “dream” snow on Tuesday. A misty rain was falling on the city Wednesday morning.
“Today what everybody is worried about is ice,” Gillis said.
The frozen precipitation shouldn’t last long: Temperatures are predicted to rise into the low 50s on Thursday and to near 60 degrees on Friday.