By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
— As weather improved Thursday, the owners of many vehicles that were abandoned during Tuesday’s snowfall have either retrieved them or moved them out of harm’s way. But a few problem spots remain in Gardendale and elsewhere.
Gardendale police chief Mike Walker said things were looking a lot better on Thursday, with main roads clear of ice.
“Lots of people have been able to get out and move their vehicles,” Walker said.
The hills on Fieldstown Road coming up from either side of the Interstate 65 interchange were problem spots early in the snow event, with city crews putting sand down on the road as fast as they could. Vehicles were pulled off to the shoulder and in the median as they day wore on.
As of Thursday, just a handful of stranded vehicles were left in that area, and none were in the main roadway.
Walker said the remaining problem spots were in and near the Lexington Park neighborhood.
“They were lined up wall to wall there Tuesday, and some vehicles were just stopped in the middle of the road,” Walker said. “It was a major effort to get in and out of there, if not impossible.”
Walker’s department posted on its Facebook page Wednesday night that they would only tow vehicles that were abandoned in the roadway and impeding traffic. That message sparked some negative comments, as the move was compared to action by the city of Leeds, which garnered negative publicity as cars were towed there with fees that were sometimes high.
“We’ve taken some criticism over that, but the sad fact of the matter is that there were some people who were off work today [Thursday] as well and apparently though, ‘Well I don’t have to work so I don’t need to move my vehicle.’ And a lot of those were left in the middle of the road,” Walker said. “But as soon as we said that on Facebook, we started getting attacks.”
Walker said the department has a contract with a towing company that uses a fixed price, which is less than what most people would pay on their own.
Lt. Scott Banks said that as of Thursday afternoon, there were four problem vehicles on Shady Grove Road between Fieldstown Road and Mt. Olive Road, and five in Lexington Park.
Elsewhere, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying that they would only have vehicles towed as a last resort.
“The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has not towed any vehicle that was abandoned during the storm and will try to avoid doing so unless it is an absolute necessity,” Chief Deputy Randy Christian said. “Before any towing takes place we will attempt to notify the registered owner and have them retrieve the vehicle.”
Christian added that there would be no charge for the towing, and that they would first attempt to tow vehicles to a nearby parking lot, so owners should check those first if the vehicle has been moved. If it isn’t there, call the Sheriff’s Office at 325-1450.
Christian advised motorists that they should retrieve their vehicles if they are close to home and their street is safe.
In Fultondale, a spokesperson said there were no vehicles blocking roadways as of Thursday. Their department was able to contact nearly all motorists with abandoned cars through a program that links registrations to phone numbers.
Warrior had numerous issues with road blockages on Wednesday, in particular a tractor-trailer that blocked U.S. 31. But that area was cleared by noon that day, and by Thursday all roads were clear, police chief Ray Horn said.
“We have a few cars off to the side on Trafford Road, but that’s it,” Horn said.
A dispatcher at the Warrior department, which handles calls for Morris, Kimberly and Trafford as well, said that almost all other streets in those communities were clear Thursday. There’s still one trouble spot on Warrior-Kimberly Road between Stouts Road and North Jefferson Middle School, however; the road there dips into a hollow that includes a sharp curve and is shaded by roadside trees.