OBITUARIES: Decatur | Shoals | Huntsville
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Snow falling on the Valley
No one believed seriously hurt in rash of weather-related wrecks
By Ronnie Thomas
The Decatur Daily

For others, though, Thursdayâ??s snowfall in Hartselle provided some fun. Briar Stewart runs through the snow as he plays with his brother Dalton on Sparkman Street.
Motorist James Burton stands in front of his car stranded Thursday on U.S. 31 on Hartselle Mountain after snowfall made the stretch of highway too slick for many motorists to get up the hill

Rain, ice and snow played havoc in the Tennessee Valley on Thursday, stalling traffic and causing a rash of traffic accidents.


No serious injuries were reported, but state troopers estimated about 25 wrecks took place in Morgan, Lawrence, Limestone and Cullman counties.


Decatur police Traffic Division Lt. Roger Huntzinger said the problem travel areas were Alabama 67 South between U.S. 31 and Priceville and U.S. 31 south of Alabama 67, particularly in the Flint Bottoms area.


“On U.S. 31 South, we had a large volume of vehicles that were sliding off into the median and couldn’t get out of the median. Those calls started coming in about lunchtime,” Huntzinger said.


In Hartselle, two school buses slid off roads after students were released from classes as three inches of snow fell. Superintendent William Michael Reed said no injuries or damages resulted from the accidents, which occurred near Mitwede Street and Peach Orchard Road.


Elementary students were released at about 12:45 p.m. and junior high and high school students about 1 p.m.


Decatur police said they worked 14 wrecks within an eight-hour period, about five times the normal number. Two included injuries, three had unknown injuries and nine were without injury. Police also responded to eight calls to assist motorists, Huntzinger said.

According to radio transmissions, emergency responders had trouble reaching some stranded motorists and wrecks because of sluggish traffic on the roadway.
Morgan County Chief Deputy Mike

Corley said deputies dealt with dozens of stuck vehicles, including three school buses.

“We’ve seen an awful lot of vehicles off the roadway — in the ditch and medians — and vehicles that got crossways on roadways that were passable, and then that one vehicle shut the road down,” Corley said.

He said there were no road closures in the county, but traffic on Interstate 65 southbound was backed up to Hartselle and a long line of cars was waiting to go up Battleground Mountain at its foot on Alabama 157.
Corley anticipated more trouble this morning after an expected nighttime low temperature of 29.

“With all this stuff on the roads, there’s not enough traffic to wear it off ... so there’s going to be some trouble spots,” Corley said.

Lawrence County said roads were clear other than some fender benders on Lawrence 150 near Courtland. Limestone and Athens authorities said they had few problems.

Many motorists faced challenges Thursday in the aftermath of the storm, even after the sun popped out about 2 p.m.

Samantha Burgess, assistant manager at Falkville Chevron on Buster Road at I-65 exit 322, said she came to work at 3 p.m.

“It’s been crazy,” she said. “People told us they had been in traffic since noon. Some trying to get off I-65 came up the southbound ramp the wrong way.”

A trooper dispatcher said a wreck at Lacon and ice were the culprits.
J.R. Johnson, Falkville Utilities supervisor, said Falkville Mayor Bob Ramey “closed everything up about noon to make sure everyone got home safely. We did not have any utility problems.”

Reva Morton, a receptionist at Summerford Nursing Home, said residents enjoyed the day.

“It was like a blizzard for a while,” Morton said. “But the sun came out, the sky turned blue, and the snow turned to mush.”

But before that happened, she said, residents came out on the porch, “and we brought snow to them in the form of snowballs. They loved it.”

Danny Kelso, chief of the Morgan County Rescue Squad, said some of his members responded to a vehicle submerged in water on Glasscock Road in the Oak Ridge community, a mile west of Hartselle.

“Flint Creek runs through that area, and apparently the driver chose to go around the barricades,” Kelso said. “We came with our quick-response boat, and our swift-water rescue team extricated her from the vehicle and brought her to shore. She did not have any injuries.”

Kelso said members of Somerville Area Volunteer Emergency Services responded to a vehicle that left the road and ran into Cotaco Creek, at Old Six Mile Road and Alabama 36.


“There was no entrapment and no injuries,” Kelso said. “The driver and passengers got out of the car on their own.”


The National Weather Service canceled the winter storm warning in Morgan County about 3 p.m.


Seth Burkett and Lucy Berry contributed to this story. Ronnie Thomas can be reached at 256-340-2438 or rthomas@decaturdaily.com.

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