Cities, county ready for ice: Winter storm forecast closes Blount school systems
By Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
Local governments spent Thursday preparing for the possibility of severe winter weather expected to hit this morning. All three Blount County school systems closed today. A winter storm watch is in effect for Blount County through tonight. The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast calls for a wintry mix of precipitation, including freezing rain and sleet across southeast Tennessee and extreme southwest North Carolina. Ice accumulations of one-tenth to one-quarter inch will be possible.
Precipitation was expected to begin moving across the Cumberland Plateau and Southeast Tennessee around 5 a.m. and then spread over the entire region shortly after sunrise.
The freezing rain advisory is in effect from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. The advisory means that periods of freezing rain or freezing drizzle are expected. There will be a high near 35 degrees today and there is a 100 percent of precipitation.
On Thursday, the city of Alcoa was coating streets with brine, a mixture of salt and water, in preparation, said Alcoa Street Services Supervisor James Trusty.
“Everybody is getting all the trucks ready and checking them out. ... We’ve got all that done and chains on (the tires). We’ve got them all loaded with salt. Now, we’re finally putting brine on the roads. We’re hard at it.”By 1 p.m. Thursday, Alcoa city crews had spread brine on about a quarter of the city’s roads.
City of Maryville spokeswoman Pam Arnett said city crews would be consulting with the weather service in Morristown to get ahead of any precipitation.
“Say it’s going to come at 6 a.m., then we’ll be out there at 5 a.m.,” Arnett said. “We’ve got salt ready and, of course, we’ll use the liquid calcium with it if the temperature is too low.”
Blount County Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap said his crews are ready to move out. “We’ve pretreated with salt on some of our worst areas. We’re just anticipating. I hope it’s a waste, but from what I’m hearing, be prepared.”
Dunlap advises county residents to not travel if conditions become bad. “If it hits, stay home,” he said.
The winter storm watch extends up the eastern Tennessee River Valley, including Chattanooga, Knoxville and the Tri-Cities. While the heavy ice that brings down tree limbs and power lines wasn’t expected in the western half of Tennessee, daytime temperatures today in East Tennessee are expected to be closer to freezing. The result could be more than a quarter-inch of ice and perhaps a half-inch of sleet atop it.
Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi said highway crews would work throughout East Tennessee overnight to put down brine, which helps keep ice from bonding to roads, and to spread salt.
Even in the mountains, the chances of snow were seen as slim. The front is expected to move fairly quickly through Tennessee, and mostly sunny weather was predicted statewide for the weekend, with temperatures into the mid-40s.
Daily Times Reporter Wes Wade and The Associated Press contributed to this report.