MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Tow trucks, police and National Guard troops began clearing away thousands of vehicles abandoned during the winter storm as rising temperatures Thursday began thawing out the epic mess on interstates and other roads.
Gov. Robert Bentley said the massive job of removing the deserted vehicles that litter Alabama roadways was Thursday’s major challenge in the aftermath of a rare Southern snow storm.
Bentley said he was encouraging municipalities to just tow cars to the shoulder of the road, instead of taking them to lots and charging the driver.
“Just move them to the side. What difference does it make if it sits there for two or three days?” Bentley said Thursday.
With temperatures still in the mid-20s, John and Anna Tipton of Mountain Brook were out early Thursday to retrieve the car she left at the base of a ramp leading from Interstate 459 to U.S. 280. Unable to drive further, she walked about a mile through the snow and ice to meet her husband Tuesday night.
“I wasn’t going to spend the night in my car,” said Anna Tipton.
About 150 vehicles littered the road shoulders around the interchange as the Tiptons scraped ice and snow off the car. The couple was fortunate: Elsewhere, some cars were left with dents and other damage after wrecks, and sliding trucks crashed into some parked vehicles.
Hoover Police Capt. James Coker said the city had not set a deadline to have cars removed. A towing company, under contract with the city, was moving cars to the side to make the roads passable.
During the storm, Hoover emergency vehicles traveled in a caravan, led by a sand truck, picking up stranded motorists on the interstate. After the storm lifted, those drivers were brought back to their cars, Coker said.
“It’s getting better by the moment,” Coker said of road conditions.
Drivers were still urged to use extreme caution and to be on the lookout for icy patches and people walking to their vehicles.
The Birmingham area got an unexpected wallop from the storm that was originally predicted to hit about 75 miles further south. The forecast was rapidly updated about an hour before snow started falling Tuesdays. Schools and businesses rapidly let out for the sending a rush of vehicles onto roads that were quickly becoming hazardous.
Alabama showed other signs Thursday of thawing out.
The final Alabama school students got back home Wednesday night after being stranded overnight in classrooms and gymnasiums because of the winter storm.
Alabama Department of Education spokesman Michael Sibley said Thursday the last of the students got home by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Alabama School Superintendent Tommy Bice praised teachers and school employees who cared for students Tuesday night when hazardous road conditions made it unsafe for buses to run.
“Pleased to report that all students are now home due to the heroes who work in our public schools,” Bice wrote in a message to staff.
About 11,000 students were stuck at public schools on Tuesday during the storm’s peak. That number was down to 1,600 by Wednesday afternoon.
Photographer Butch Dill contributed to this report from Birmingham. AP writer Jay Reeves contributed from Montgomery.
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