Police, deputies log long hours dealing with snowstorm
by Madasyn Czebiniak
Jan 29, 2014 | 3816 views |  0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Handling the crush of calls at the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday is dispatcher Sgt. Vickie Parris. (Photo by Bill Wilson./The Anniston Star)
Handling the crush of calls at the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday is dispatcher Sgt. Vickie Parris. (Photo by Bill Wilson./The Anniston Star)
Matthew Wade, chief deputy of the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, navigated a black Ford pickup with ease down Anniston city roads Wednesday morning.

As he coasted through a graveyard of abandoned vehicles, past a green car stuck headfirst in a deep ditch on the corner of Saks Road and a white truck lying on its side in a watery ditch on Alexandria Road, he said he was grateful no one had to sleep in their car Tuesday night.

"That was a grave concern of mine, how all the people were going to get home safely," he said Wednesday morning.

But everyone did, according to Anniston police Chief Shane Denham and Sheriff Larry Amerson. Local law enforcement officers had gotten students and teachers stranded at city and county schools home by 10 p.m. and were even offering rides to people walking along the streets, including an Anniston Star photographer.

Denham and Amerson said Wednesday that their departments were still taking emergency calls, but will wait until Thursday to respond to minor instances.

“Luckily, knock on wood, we haven’t had a lot of things that were unnecessary,” Denham said Wednesday afternoon.

Amerson said Wednesday morning that his office hadn’t had any calls that were serious.

That might have been because very few vehicles were out and about. Just after midnight Wednesday morning, for example, the only motion in downtown Anniston came from blowing snow — no bars were open, no vehicles were moving. Quintard was as empty as a country lane.

Law enforcement officers said they were mostly focusing on monitoring their communities, getting people out of vehicles and driving hospital workers to and from Regional Medical Center Wednesday afternoon.

Even though city streets in Jacksonville, Oxford and Anniston were still officially closed as of Wednesday afternoon, people were still out driving.

By 2 p.m., a few parts of Noble Street and Quintard Avenue were practically bare as cars slowly slid down them. Farther down Noble, on a couple of side streets, only slivers of blacktop could be seen through the snow.

“Lots of the city streets are thawing out but it’s pretty bad out there,” Denham said of the roads in Ohatchee, where he had been driving one of his officers home in a humvee.

Amerson on Wednesday stressed the importance of staying off the roads.

“If you have a two-wheel-drive vehicle you have absolutely no business trying to go anywhere. If you have a four-wheel-drive you might make it but we don’t recommend it,” he said. “If you’re warm and you’re dry stay there.”

Deputy Cliff Mize was unable to make it back to his home in Randolph County Tuesday night. He slept on two bright blue wrestling mats in a room at the Calhoun County Jail after working from 7 a.m. until 2:30 a.m.

"It wasn't as bad as it sounded," he said.

Cliff said Alabama 204, Bynum Leatherwood Road and several roads in Ohatchee and Pleasant Valley were difficult to drive down on Tuesday night, even in a humvee. His last rescue was three people from a mental health facility in Jacksonville.

He said making it through Alabama 204 “was like trying to drive on a mirror. It was ridiculous.”

Amerson said he is extremely proud of his deputies for their work during the snowstorm. Amerson personally brought the last teacher home from White Plains middle school around midnight.

Denham said a majority of his officers spent the night at their office, including his entire investigative division. Anniston Capt. Allen George, who was out bringing the last of the students stuck at city schools home Tuesday night, even posted a photo to Facebook of him holding a bright orange disposable toothbrush at his office Wednesday morning.

"They have done an awesome job. I'm very proud of how they responded," Denham said.

Circuit Judge Brian Howell said Wednesday afternoon that the Calhoun County Courthouse will be closed Thursday. Those who had scheduled court dates will be rescheduled, Howell said.

Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.

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