published Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Winter storm lingers with freezing temperatures in AL

By JAY REEVES

Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — People stranded overnight at school, at work or in their cars had a simple goal tpday: Just to get home. But Alabama's winter storm could continue getting in their way as it entered a second day, with roads turned to ice from a hard freeze.

Thousands of people were stuck in traffic for hours around the Birmingham area, and others camped out in offices, school libraries or gymnasiums because roads were impassable.

No one knew exactly how many people were stranded, but some major employers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield had hundreds of people sleeping in offices overnight. Workers watched movies on their laptops, and office cafeterias gave away food.

Stephanie Reynolds, a second-grade teacher, spent the night with about 10 students and two dozen co-workers at Meadow View Elementary School in Alabaster. Many of the children's parents were stuck in cars in roadways and unable to pick up their kids, she said.

Reynolds comforted crying children, played games and did lesson plans for two weeks. A dance party helped fill up a few minutes, and the school dietitian stayed to make pizza for dinner and biscuits and gravy for breakfast.

"The students have been here so long: all day yesterday, overnight and now," said Reynolds. "I'm going on no sleep right now. I didn't even try. I figured since I was here I might as well be productive."

Fire trucks took two children home from the school overnight, and firefighters were planning more runs after daybreak.

In Hoover, police said they rescued about 100 people who were stuck overnight in cars on Interstate 65 or I-459 as temperatures fell to near 10 degrees.

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 on 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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