Less than two weeks after a winter storm closed roads and trapped residents in hours-long gridlock throughout Calhoun County, city and county leaders said they were preparing Monday for another expected snowfall, moving vehicles to strategic locations and readying to spread sand and salt on dangerous roads.
Forecasters said Monday that Calhoun County should expect a little of everything in terms of winter weather over the next two days. According to the National Weather Service office in Calera, northern parts of the county could see up to an inch of snow Tuesday, while Anniston and Oxford should watch out for ice accumulation that could reach up to a half-inch. Temperatures are expected to rise barely above freezing before the county could get buried in an inch to an inch and a half of snow Wednesday afternoon.
“The question isn’t if we’re going to see precipitation — yes, we are,” said Matt Anderson, a meteorologist with the Weather Service, who said Calhoun County will be under a winter storm warning until midnight on Wednesday “It’s what type you’ll get.”
Bob Dean, public works director for Anniston, said after the snow storm that wreaked havoc on the city less than two weeks ago, he ordered more sand, sprayers and tire chains to combat the icy road conditions.
He didn’t expect he’d need them so quickly.
“We’re just getting in our new sprayers today,” Dean said Monday morning. “But we have plenty of material to be ready and have a quick response.”
Dean said Monday morning his crews were prepping city vehicles, including putting chains on the tires of police cars and sand trucks. The city’s first priority Monday afternoon was to make sure a sand tractor was stationed at the fire station on Henry Road, near the intersection with the Veterans Memorial Parkway. Dean said the road is often the first to ice over in poor weather, and became one of the most hazardous areas during the snowstorm two weeks ago.
Calhoun County Engineer Brian Rosenbalm said he was using a similar strategy, and the county’s Highway Department had several vehicles loaded with sand and salt and ready to go in Piedmont, where the most snow was expected to fall overnight.
“We’re just going to watch the weather and see where we need to go,” Rosenbalm said. “We’ll monitor bridges and overpasses that tend to ice quicker.”
Cleburne County Engineer Shannon Robbins said the county was expecting a new load of sand on Monday, “just in case.”
“We’ve got a limited supply of the de-icing pellets that we can mix in with the sand,” Robbins said on Monday. “Today, we’ll try to get everything fueled up in case power’s out for awhile.”
In an email sent to The Star on Monday, Shane Christian, project administrator for transit services at the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, said the county’s fixed-route bus systems and area para-transit services are canceled Tuesday.
All schools in the county will be closed Tuesday, said Randy Reaves, the safety and security director for Calhoun County Schools. Officials will meet Tuesday at 1 p.m. to discuss plans for Wednesday, said Joe Dyar, superintendent of Calhoun County Schools. Cleburne County Schools will also be closed Tuesday.
Classes at Jacksonville State University are canceled Tuesday. Gadsden State Community College’s Ayers Campus will also be closed Tuesday.
In Montgomery, Gov. Robert Bentley issued a statewide state of emergency in advance the dangerous weather. The state of emergency begins at 6 a.m. today.
Bentley said the state is taking no chances as the winter weather nears the state. The governor urged people to be cautious and avoid all unnecessary travel.
Bentley said a wrecker unit of the Alabama National Guard is on standby with crews positions throughout north Alabama.
The governor said the state's emergency operations center has been activated to handle response to the storm.
Meteorologists said late Monday that weather conditions for specific areas were still undetermined, and would depend largely on where the 32-degree freeze line, separating snow from ice, would fall in the county.
“We’ve been kind of telling people what you see when you look out your window in the morning is what you’ll get,” Anderson said. “So if you wake up tomorrow and the roads are icy, they’re probably going to be icy all day.”
Staff Writer Laura Camper contributed reporting to the story.
Information from the Associated Press is included in this story.
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.