CULLMAN, Ala, (WHNT) – There were a number of people who simply spent the night on the interstate in Cullman County Thursday night, including one man who says he had to sleep in the cold. His truck ran out of fuel after sitting and idling for some 12 hours. WHNT News 19’s Al Whitaker was on the interstate at daybreak as state troopers continued their efforts to get the traffic moving.
The morning sun revealed just how bad the situation was on I-65. Many parts of the roadway still had a thick coating of ice. By 8 a-m, the southbound lanes were moving but the conditions were still dangerous, as the driver of one crashed vehicle quickly discovered.
Alabama State Troopers were assigned the task of checking on truck drivers who had simply parked their rigs on the shoulder and spent the night.
Truck driver Brian Newton told us, “I got to the 305 (mile marker) at about 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon and this is where I stopped at about 3 o’clock this morning, when I run out of fuel. So it took me, what, 12 hours to go six miles, seven miles?”
In Cullman, a Red Cross shelter housed 116 stranded motorists for the night. There were no motel rooms available.
“The traffic came to a stop and nobody was moving so yeah, we sat on the interstate for five or six hours,” says Eddie Robinson Jr. He and his wife were driving from Mobile to their home in Ohio when they encountered the snow Thursday afternoon.
The back-up actually began early Thursday afternoon. In fact, we shot video of the back-up at 2:30 P.M. Truck driver Mike Smith, who had gotten out of his cab and built a snowman on the side of the road, told us he had been sitting still in traffic for 45 minutes at that time. But the call to open the shelter didn’t come until 9 o’clock. (phyllis little, cullman ema director)
“Of course, at 8 o’clock our information was that traffic was moving, but it didn’t last very long,” Cullman County EMA Director Phyllis Little told WHNT News 19. She added, “So, that would have been the only thing I think that we would have done differently and that’s we would have gone ahead and opened at least an hour earlier.”
Little says they will be reviewing their response to what happened on I-65 and one of the recommendations may very well be the installation of paved turn-around lanes here the interstate so cars and trucks could be diverted back when this happens again.
Little says because that ten mile stretch of interstate can be so treacherous at times, she’d also like to see radio transmitters installed, along with signs telling motorists where to tune their radios for highway and traffic information.