Hundreds stuck on I-65 in Cullman overnight after snow


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

It took almost an entireday, but the logjam on I-65 finally broke open Friday morning.

It began Thursday when thesleet and snow shut down the interstate in the Lacon Mountain area near exit308.

Many drivers were strandedin their cars overnight, though some lucky drivers did make it to exits.

Businesses off the interstate were more thanwilling to serve some extra customers.

What you consider a havencould be relative to your situation. For many drivers who were stuck onInterstate 65 for hours and hours, if they could make it to a place like theGraves BP, it was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.

"My parking lot waspacked full," said Tim Graves, BP station owner.

In Cullman County, fromday into night and through the next morning, traffic on an icy and wreck-filledI-65 varied between stop and a snail-like, foot-by-foot pace.

It seemed as soon as carsstarted moving at all, another tractor trailer jack-knifed, shutting down any inchof progress. Some drivers were stuck for 10 hours or more.

By the time some of thelucky drivers nearer to an exit got to a gas station, they had a lot of needs.

"I think everyservice station out here was packed full.  People needed restrooms. They needed gas. Theywere thirsty, hungry. They were aggravated and they were ready to get home,"said Graves.

Graves said with hotelsfilled for the night, some of the road-weary settled down right at the station.They kind of camped out until it cleared up, and some of them stayed overnight.

It was a short-livedbusiness boost for businesses off of I-65, but like so many of those who had anunexpected and unwanted sleepover, Graves said he's glad the interstate is freeand clear.

"They were probablyready to get home to their family and stuff. The sun was shining in Florence,and it was like being in Alaska here," he said.

The Red Cross set up amake-shift shelter at the Cullman Civic Center to house and feed those whocould make it there. The Red Cross said more than 100 people showed up andstayed until 65 was cleared for traffic.

District Engineer Johnny Harriswith the Department of Transportation said Mother Nature can be tricky, andevery winter event is different.

While rare, an event like that has happenedbefore and can happen again.

ALDOT officials saidinitial reports were that the winter weather would hit later in the day and farthereast than it did.

When trucks jack-knifed, itcaused a long backup due to the traffic flow on the interstate.

Harris said that backupprevented their trucks from working on the roadway to keep it from freezing up.

Harris said state troopersare tasked with closing and providing detours, but motorists between the exitswere the most impacted.

"Nature is alwaysunpredictable.  You just try to have yourbest efforts put forward and try to just deal with the situation as itdevelops," said Harris.

He said local people arepreparing an after event report for review.

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