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Winter weather bears down on South

A freak blast of winter weather is blanketing large swaths of the country, causing dangerous conditions and rolling blackouts across parts of the nation – even the South, which generally avoids such storms, is feeling the impact.

On Sunday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency for the 28 counties slated to be hardest hit by the inclement weather: Bibb, Blount, Choctaw, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Shelby, Sumter, Tuscaloosa, Walker and Winston counties.

Still, Ivey’s office urged those in areas where roads remain safe to follow through with plans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – the state was set to begin its second week of mass vaccination clinics Monday, but many sites were closed due to the impending weather.

“If weather permits and roadways remain safe, Alabamians who have plans to receive their COVID-19 vaccine should still do so,” a statement from Ivey’s office read. “Issuing this state of emergency is a precautionary measure in the instance the state is severely impacted due to freezing weather.”

Scores of county health departments were closed Monday as a precaution against the expected hazardous conditions, including those in Choctaw, Clarke, Dallas, Marengo, Washington and Wilcox counties.

A drive-through clinic in Choctaw County, as well as a walk-in vaccine clinic in Marengo County, were cancelled and will be rescheduled later.

Clinics slated for Monday in the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) West Central District, which includes Bibb, Chilton, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Winston counties, will be rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 20.

Likewise, a drive-through job fair scheduled in Demopolis Monday, hosted by West Alabama Works, has been postponed with no alternate date yet set.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) released a statement Sunday urging motorists to avoid travel over the next few days as “freezing rain will likely coat roads with ice in north and west-central Alabama” and much of the state will “experience freezing temperatures over the next few days which could produce widespread ‘black ice’ conditions.”

The ALDOT statement noted that portions of the state will likewise see accumulation of sleet and snow.

“Forecasts indicate icy conditions will be a concern through late morning Wednesday, Feb. 17, due to temperatures remaining near or below freezing even during daytime house Monday and Tuesday,” the ALDOT statement said. “Anywhere temperatures are below freezing, moisture on pavement surfaces may freeze to form black ice, a transparent layer of ice on the roadways that is difficult for motorists to detect in advance.”