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I-65 reopens in north Alabama as snow, ice melt

Motorist James Burton stands in front of his car stranded on U.S. Highway 31 on Hartselle Mountain after the stretch of highway became to slick for many motorists to get up the hill when a snowstorm struck Alabama Thursday. (Associated Press: GARY COSBY JR./The Decatur Daily)

By JAY REEVES
The Associated Press

1/18/2013

CULLMAN, Ala.  — An Alabama interstate blocked by wrecks after a snowstorm has been reopened north of Birmingham.

Hundreds of people spent a freezing night trapped on Interstate 65 in Cullman County after as much as 4 inches of snow caused a series of wrecks that snarled traffic for miles.

Alabama state troopers say the interstate was reopened in both directions by 9:30 a.m. Friday.

But it may take time for traffic to move freely again because of the size of the blockage.

Daytime temperatures rose above freezing, improving road conditions.

Traffic had backed up at least eight miles on the northbound highway, which links Birmingham and Nashville, Tenn.

Motorists posted on Facebook and Twitter about being trapped for 10 hours and more without food or bathrooms.

Jack-knifed 18-wheelers and cars littered the shoulders and median of I-65.

"There are hundreds of vehicles on the interstate northbound. Until we get enough sunlight or warmer temperatures I don't see it changing," said Cullman County Emergency Management Director Phyllis Little said at the height of the blockage.

Schools, businesses and government offices delayed opening for two hours and more as far south as metro Birmingham to allow roads to thaw out, but authorities still reported multiple wrecks and backups during rush hour.

Little said I-65 northbound was backed up at least eight miles south of Lacon Mountain in Morgan County. "People can't get up or down it," she said.

Police helped some drivers make it off the highway and almost 120 motorists made it to a shelter at the Cullman Civic Center, but many more couldn't.

The jam was made all the worse by drivers who got on the interstate despite the backup, Little said.

"Even with the interstate backed up as far as you could see people were still trying to get on it," she said. "Troopers were flashing their lights at people to stop them, and they finally closed exit 310 to keep them off."

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Jessica Rey, who works at a Subway restaurant in Decatur and lives in Tennessee, kept an eye out as snow fell. Her boss told her not to get stranded at work.

"He told me to leave early if it gets bad," she said. "I live 90 miles from here."

The threat of slippery roads prompted officials to close NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Engineers postponed an outdoor rocket test to give center workers time to get home; the center was among the workplaces planning to open late.

National Weather Service forecasters said temperatures were expected to drop to freezing or below freezing, but afternoon highs around 50 degrees on Friday should clear away the remaining snow and ice.

The backup began Thursday afternoon as a winter storm blanketed the area with as much as 4 inches of snow.

The National Weather Service said temperatures were supposed to rise to around 50 degrees Friday, thawing the remaining ice and snow.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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