Winter storm catches county by surprise

An Alabaster police officer helps to direct traffic at the intersection of Kent Dairy Road and Shelby County 17 as hundreds of parents pick their children up from school on Jan. 28. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

An Alabaster police officer helps to direct traffic at the intersection of Kent Dairy Road and Shelby County 17 as hundreds of parents pick their children up from school on Jan. 28. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Vehicle wrecks piled up throughout Shelby County, and school buses were unable to traverse area roads to return children home on Jan. 28, as a winter storm dropped significantly more snow than forecast throughout the day.

Much of Shelby County was forecast to receive a dusting of snow as the weather front moved across the state, but parts of the county were blanketed with multiple inches of snow in only a few hours.

Shelby County and Alabaster schools announced plans to dismiss students before noon, but school buses were unable to traverse the icy roads, causing students to be returned to their schools.

In an email sent shortly before 3 p.m., Shelby County Schools Deputy Superintendent Tom Ferguson said each school was prepared to provide overnight care to students until they could be picked up by their parents.

“In light of the severe weather all Shelby county schools are prepared to provide a safe environment until which time parents can pick up their children,” Ferguson wrote. “If it becomes necessary for students to stay overnight each school will provide an environment in which all will be cared for.”

Students in Alabaster schools faced a similar situation, as school buses were unable to safely transport students home on the snow-covered roads.

“It is a parental decision to come retrieve now or wait. Just be assured they are taking great care of children first and foremost,” read a post on the city of Alabaster’s Facebook page. “If it comes to it, the city will lend use of its equipment/vehicles once safe to do so to assist with children. We are all working together to deal with this unforeseen, nor forecast, situation.”

Shortly before 1 p.m., Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies were helping motorists who had lost traction and skidded off the road on Shelby County 26 between Columbiana and Alabaster, a situation nearly every road in Shelby County was facing at the time.

“Many roadways are blocked in Shelby County due to cars blocking the road that have been abandoned by their drivers,” read a news release issued by the Sheriff’s Office at about 2 p.m. “Residents should not attempt to drive on roadways until they improve.”

Alabaster City Manager George Henry praised the city’s emergency responders for responding to the situation with little notice.

“The Mayor and I are very proud of the efforts of our emergency operations team to come together with little notice and (conduct) themselves with their usual high levels of professionalism,” Henry wrote in an email.