Snow business

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/8/17

Call it a Christmas miracle. Call it misfortune. Call it a surprise. But it came.

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Snow business

Posted

Call it a Christmas miracle. Call it misfortune. Call it a surprise. But it came.

Oh, how the snow came.

Walker County residents, warned for days that projected snow for Friday would come to the south and east of the county, awoke to find snow on the ground, and it continued to come down as the morning progressed. By 10 a.m., one site near the Jefferson County line had about 1 1/2 inches.

Walker County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Coordinator Regina Myers said at midday said the Hay Valley Volunteer Fire Department sent in a photo from there showing a ruler measuring more than 2 inches of snow. She quoted District 4 Walker County Commissioner Steven Aderholt as saying it was safe to say his area got 2-3 inches.

However, some worried about “black ice” conditions as temperatures were expected to go to 22 Friday night. The Daily Mountain Eagle decided for the sake of its carriers that it would complete its Saturday edition by 3 p.m. Friday.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham listed Walker County as being in a Winter Weather Advisory Friday morning, saying a half-inch to 2 inches was possible in the area. Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties were in a Winter Storm Warning, which meant 5 inches were possible.

Aderholt wrote on Facebook late Friday morning that his crews were sanding bridges. He said as of 10 p.m. Thursday night that the county was not supposed to get any accumulation, and that the time for accumulation was being extended into early Friday afternoon.

“After talking to Walker County EMA some parts of the county are at 32 degrees, while other parts such as Empire and Sipsey are currently at 30 degrees with most bridges and some roadways,” Aderholt said.

He thought that the area will have “too much snow and not enough time with temps above freezing for the roads to be safe tonight. I hope I’m wrong.” 

The Pinnacle Bank sign in downtown Jasper said it was 29 degrees at mid-morning.

A heater caught fire inside Kilgore Wrecker in Jasper, according to scanner reports, although the business was able to put it out, although there were some concerns for the condition of the walls.

Walker County E-911 posted at mid-morning Friday on Facebook that reports were coming in of ice on bridges in the Cordova area, and that bridges on Horse Creek Boulevard were also staring to ice.

“The bridge on River Road near the asphalt plant is reportedly a solid sheet of ice,” the department reported. “Warrior River Bridge on Highway 78 is also starting to ice.” An hour later, it talked of bridges icing on Highway 69, Dovertown Road, New Oakman Highway and the Old Parrish-Cordova Road.

Myers said at midday the problem areas of the county are south of Highway 78. She said one tree was reported down on Highway 69 in the McCollum Community.

Jasper roads were reported to be in good shape, and that Districts 3 and 4, as well as its municipalities, were the districts of concern for travel as far as the county, she said.

Walker County Superintendent of Education Jason Adkins posted on Facebook before school started that both Walker County and Jasper City schools were open that day, with roads clear of accumulation. He urged students to take their time to get to school, and that no tardies would be given to students coming in late.

He said parents were free to keep students home as long as they had a parental excuse left.

At midday, Walker County and Jasper schools announced they would be let out at 1:30 p.m. Myers said the late decision to close early involved a small window of time for temperatures to be above freezing to get the buses back out again. Temperatures were expected to go above freezing around the lunch hour, but they would also go below freezing maybe by 5 p.m., which could cause black ice issues on roads.

“We’re concerned. The roads causing issues today, we are afraid they will re-ice,” Myers said. “So with us going back below freezing around the 5 o’clock timeframe, we are expecting the icing conditions tonight to be maybe a little worse than what we’ve seen today. We’ve already been asking everyone if they don’t have to be out, to stay in, stay warm, stay safe.” 

Sumiton Christian Academy had delayed school until 10 a.m., with Myers noting that school also have many students who come from Jefferson County, which also had winter weather problems. However, by 8 a.m. or 9 p.m., school officials decided to call off school for the entire day and never opened, she said.

Oakman High School posted online that temperatures would reach 37 degrees by 2 p.m., but they would drop again tonight.

As a result, after-school activities were cancelled. (Myers said all such activities were cancelled across the county.) 

The Town of Oakman announced it was delaying its Christmas parade and tree lighting to Thursday, Dec. 14. The tree lighting will be at 5 p.m., while the parade wil be at 6 p.m.

News reports said a total of 25,000 Alabama Power homes in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area were out of power as of mid-morning, although Myers said she had no reports of outages. Britton Lightsey, the local manager for Alabama Power, said only one outage was reported in Dora at midday, with the rest of the county operating normally.

Myers agreed with Aderholt that the snow accumulations were a surprise.

“We were not in that advisory area last night,” she said. “The I-20 Corridor and south and east (of there) was the area that was supposed to be getting this winter type weather. I believe they said the front went further northwest than (forecasters) had anticipated.” 

Asked when she found out it was coming, she said she was up early Friday morning.

“I was like, ‘Oh, no!’” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it when I went to bed. Winter weather is so hard to predict. In the South, it is not easily predictable. It is all about timing and moisture, and, ‘Is it a wet snow or a hard snow?’” In the end, she said there are so many factors.

County officers were still open at midday, she said, although county garbage trucks had to come off the road and the Circuit Clerk’s Office closed early. Courthouse maintenance were keeping the sidewalks salted around that facility.

Chief Deputy Dayron Bridges said at midday the department was not having any problems that day as a result of the weather.

Sheriff Jim Underwood could not be reached for comment.

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary said at midday that if no more snow comes, he felt the city would be in good shape, noting that city offices remained open. He said he was in Parrish earlier in the day and that area had much more snow than Jasper.

Parrish Mayor Heather Hall said about 3.5 inches came down in Parrish, but the roads were in good shape. He said as a precaution she kept city offices closed Friday.