Despite ‘worst possible’ roads, Pelham Police quiet during winter storm

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Despite the “worst possible” road conditions in Pelham and much of Central Alabama Jan. 9-10, the Pelham Police Department reported one of its quietest weekends in months, said Capt. Larry Palmer.

Beginning at about 3 p.m. Jan. 9, Pelham was covered by freezing rain, some snow and patches of thick ice on nearly every road in the city.

After temperatures in the teens early Jan. 10, Pelham residents woke up to nearly impassable roads, especially on interstate overpasses and bridges.

“I’m glad people listened to the warnings to stay off the roads,” Palmer said. “It was the worst possible case you could have on the roads.

“We got the ice first, then some snow and then another layer of ice,” he added. “Snow will move when you drive on it, but ice won’t.”

When the roads began icing over, law enforcement agencies all over the state began issuing road warnings urging motorists to stay off the ice-covered roads.

Sometimes drivers disregard road warnings, but this year was different, Palmer said.

“People really paid attention to the warnings this time and did what the police asked,” Palmer said. “Everyone seemed to stay at home. We know that was a big inconvenience for a lot of people, so we really appreciated that.”

Ice forming on trees and power lines can cause severed electrical lines and lead to widespread power outages, which can be dangerous in sub-freezing temperatures. Though the police were prepared to respond to power outage calls, the city’s electrical problems were limited, Palmer said.

“I don’t think we had a single major power outage that whole time,” he said. “We had one traffic signal go down for a while, but that was it.”

During both days of the ice storm, few cars were traversing the city’s roads. Because of the dangerous conditions and low traffic, the police department temporarily suspended its normal patrol routes.

“We actually hunkered down here in the station ourselves,” Palmer said. “We completely stopped our patrols, and just responded to everything on a call-by-call basis.

“We had officers stationed in every fire station in the city ready to go,” he added.

The department responded to “a few” traffic accidents during the two-day period, but reported no serious crashes or injuries.

Because most city residents stayed at home for an extended period of time, the department had somewhat of a quiet weekend.

“We prepared for the worst, but luckily nothing major happened,” Palmer said. “It was actually a really quiet time for us. We welcome that from time to time.”