How emergency agencies tackled winter weather in North Alabama

Crews were busy treating roads throughout the night.

Posted: Dec 11, 2019 6:42 PM

The Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency is refining a new winter weather plan.

However, they have yet to use it for the first time. 

The snowfall Tuesday was just under the threshold. Chris Reed and his fellow officers with EMA spent Tuesday and Wednesday morning on stand by, constantly in communication with various agencies including the police department, public works, and Department of Transportation. 

Reed said things would be different if more snow stayed on the ground longer. 

"We start shutting down our major arteries around Huntsville, whether that be Highway 72, (Interstate) 565 over Chapman Mountain," Reed said. 

Reed said there were some black ice spots, which did cause more than a dozen wrecks across the county. Emergency workers told WAAY31 they responded to at least 16 crashes with injuries in three hours.

However, no roads or highways were pretreated. Both Huntsville and Madison never pretreat roads, even when expecting a winter storm. 

That's because they say these winter storms do not happen enough to invest in the equipment needed to pretreat. They rely on agencies like Alabama Department of Transportation, who have brine ready to go if need be. 

Since there was consistent rainfall ahead of the snow, Alabama Department of Transportation chose not to pretreat any highways. They said the rain would wash away any pretreatment. 

When the snow fell, both Huntsville and Madison Public Works responded, treating troubled areas such as bridges and overpasses.

Chris McKneese with Huntsville Public Works said if a stronger storm was to hit, they would have crews ready to go all day and night.

"We do have teams that we have on standby that are on call, that we'll call in if it's after hours," McKneese siad. 

The Department of Transportation did have crews ready to go and treat as the roads became icy. An official with the department said there was more icing than anticipated. 

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