HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Sleet and ice coated north Alabama in a treacherous glaze Thursday, making travel difficult and forcing schools, government offices and businesses to shut down yet again because of the weather.
Forecasters said travel problems could persist through early Friday because of subfreezing temperatures.
Police in Irondale suspected icy conditions as a factor in a crash involving more than a dozen vehicles including 18-wheeler trucks near the I-459 and I-20 interchange. Police Det. Michael Mangina told WBRC-TV two adults and three children were hospitalized. The Alabama Department of Transportation said traffic on Interstate 65 also slowed to a crawl north of Cullman partly because of wrecks, and elevated sections of I-565 in Huntsville were closed because of an icy buildup.
The Army closed Redstone Arsenal because of the dangerous travel, but John Morgan made it to his job at a Waffle House in Priceville.
Morgan said he spent the night at a motel to make sure he could get to work for his shift, and enough people were out driving to keep the grill sizzling with hash browns, eggs and sausage. Road conditions were bad, he said, but not as hazardous as last week when snow blanketed the area.
"It's slushy everywhere. Things are moving kind of slow, but we had people who were able to make it in this morning," said Morgan.
Only scattered power outages were reported.
The system moved eastward during the day, with freezing rain eventually spreading as far south as central Alabama. Many businesses sent workers home early in Birmingham, where frozen precipitation covered the ground before melting.
The Tennessee Valley received about 1 inch of snow and sleet with a quarter-inch of ice, forecasters said, and freezing rain was forecast as far south as Demopolis in west Alabama.
Scores of schools and many government offices were closed, many for the third time in as many weeks because of winter weather, and Colbert County schools planned to close again Friday.
Lows early Friday were expected to drop into the teens and low 20s, preventing frozen precipitation from thawing.
"I hope the temperatures warm up to melt some of this stuff," said Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell. "If not, it'll turn to black ice. Then we will have a problem."
The weather service issued a winter storm warning and Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency, which meant schools would not have to make up a day lost to weather problems.