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Winter weather prompts state of emergency, closes schools

Gov. Robert Bentley has issued a State of Emergency effective at 7 a.m. Friday for all Alabama counties in preparation for potential severe winter weather.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory and Winter Storm Watch for several Alabama counties in anticipation of snow, sleet and freezing rain in and near the areas under the advisory and watch. Franklin County falls under the advisory area.
“I am encouraging all Alabama residents to be prepared for the potential of significant winter weather, and I have directed my essential state agencies to do the same,” Bentley said. “With any severe weather event there is always a measure of uncertainty; however, it is important for everyone to take the necessary precautions and stay informed of the latest weather predictions in your area. I have issued a State of Emergency to ensure all available state resources are ready to be deployed if and when it is deemed necessary.”
Preparations are being made in Franklin County as well, where EMA Director Jody Hitt said he is preparing for a potential 1.5 inches of snow.
Hitt said the area could see a dusting of snow tonight as temperatures begin to drop, followed by the greatest chance for snow beginning about 11 a.m. Friday. Possibility for snow continues until late tomorrow evening with high temperatures around 28 degrees.
“It’s going to be very cold,” Hitt said – and it will only get colder, with wind chill dropping the temperature to below 10 degrees Saturday night. Whatever snow the county does get, Hitt said, is likely to melt and refreeze if temperatures rise into the 30s Saturday – and right now that’s a big if – making travel hazardous.
“If anybody has to get out, be very cautious,” Hitt cautioned, recommending everyone to stay home until winter weather subsides.

Franklin County Schools, Russellville City Schools and Northwest-Shoals Community College have all announced closures for Friday.

“In Alabama, winter weather is hard to predict; three or four degrees can be the difference between cold rain, sleet, snow or ice,” Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Art Faulkner said. “I cannot stress enough the need for people to check their winter weather emergency supply kit, have a plan of action if conditions diminish as well as having a reliable method to receive the latest weather updates.”
Hitt also encouraged people to be cautious with their heat sources to avoid compounding a winter weather problem with a fire problem.

People should make sure to look out for the four P’s as they prepare for winter weather – people, especially protection for children and the elderly; plants, which might need to be brought indoors or protected with frost cloth; pipes, including disconnecting outdoor hoses and wrapping exposed pipes; and pets, which require adequate shelter, food and water.