- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Snow and sleet blanketed north Alabama for a second straight day and trees and limbs snapped under a coat of ice to the east Wednesday as the state endured a second winter storm in as many weeks.

As much as 3 inches of snow turned streets white in just a few minutes in downtown Birmingham, and the state said roads were covered with snow across the region.

Trucks with blades attached to the front were plowing snow off Interstate 59 northeast of the metro area. Roads were hazardous in Blount, Etowah and St. Clair counties roads because of wintry precipitation.

Most schools and businesses were either shut down or operating on limited hours, so traffic wasn’t a major problem. But more than 12,000 homes and businesses were without power.

Forecasters said northeast Alabama could receive more than 6 inches of snow atop a half-foot that fell on Tuesday, and metro Birmingham could get additional accumulations by Thursday.

Conditions worsened quickly along the Georgia line in Cleburne County as temperatures dipped below freezing before lunchtime. Steve Swafford, the county administrator and emergency management director, said some roads were impassable within minutes because of broken trees and fallen limbs.

“I’m not optimistic about what’s going to happen,” Swafford said.

Along Interstate 20 near the Georgia line, ice hung from tree limbs but traffic was still moving in the afternoon. Relatively few westbound cars were leaving Georgia, where Atlanta was encased in ice.

A winter storm warning covered almost the entire northern half of the state. 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 as much as 7 inches in the northeast mountains, forecasters said.

At least 15 shelters opened in seven counties. Trucks spread sand and salty water on roads to prevent icing.

Unlike two weeks ago - when thousands of people were stranded in schools, cars and businesses by a winter storm that was far worse than predicted in central Alabama - forecasts were correct this time and people were prepared.

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.


AP reporter Phillip Rawls contributed to this report from Montgomery.



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