ST. FLORIAN — Police Chief Ralph Richey said he knew it was going to be a long day Wednesday when he saw a log truck take down two utility poles on Church Road and Lauderdale 47.
He just didn’t know how long and how big a mess the accident was going to cause.
“It took six hours to get everything cleaned up and back to order,” Richey said.
The downed poles caused a power outage throughout the rural town and caused traffic to snarl because it had to be diverted.
“None of our businesses had electricity during that time. Some even closed for the day,” Richey said.
The truck was trying to turn from Church Road south onto Lauderdale 47. Richey said the trailer struck a utility pole on the corner and when the pole came down, the lines pulled down the utility pole in front of Town Hall.
“This is a perfect example why there needs to be some kind of alternate route in St. Florian,” said Lauderdale County Commissioner Larry Irons, who lives in the St. Florian area. “If we had another route through here, the wreck would not have caused all these problems.”
Traffic studies indicate approximately 12,000 vehicles travel through St. Florian each day.
For years, the commission has worked with St. Florian officials to develop a new St. Florian Road.
“There’s a saying if you are going to Nashville you’re going to go through St. Florian first,” Mayor Don Strait said. “There’s more and more people coming through here every day.”
A route was selected four years ago for a proposed road that would extend St. Florian Road from Lauderdale 47 into Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park. Officials said the new road would ease traffic on Church Road, which connects Lauderdale 47 to Alabama 17.
Strait said if the road was completed, the truck could have gone across Lauderdale 47, and what happened Wednesday could have been avoided.
“If there is any question as to why we need a new road, all they had to do was to see what happened today,” Strait said. “This shut down the entire town.”
Preliminary design work on the original proposal has been completed, but historical concerns delayed the project and prompted the Alabama Historical Commission and highway administration to ask for alternate routes.
“We’ve got to find a route that will miss the historical property,” Lauderdale County Engineer Ken Allamel said.
County officials said two alternate routes, submitted earlier to the highway administration, were turned down. They were north and south of the original route. Allamel said the alternate routes both go east off Parkway Drive in the industrial park for about a mile.
The southern route ran parallel with Church Road, also known as Lauderdale 30, and then turned south to go around St. Florian Park before connecting with Lauderdale 47 just south of the Buffler house.
The northern route came off Parkway Drive, and paralleled Church Road until it neared Brandenburg subdivision, where it intersected with Church Road and continued on to Lauderdale 47.
Allamel said a new, third alternate route will have to be farther south, toward the city of Florence.
Strait agrees there is a lot of history in the town, but not on the route for the road.
“The history is all about (St. Michael’s) church and (Riverhill) school,” he said. “If we build a new road, it would take most of the traffic off Church Road, which goes right between the church and the school.
“Having a new road would take care of some safety issues as well. I’m trying my best to get something done for the people of this community and getting a new road would be a step in that direction.”
Richey said there were no injuries in Wednesday’s accident.
“Just a lot of chaos,” he said.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.