Across the state, crews started treating state routes and interstates in anticipation for today’s weather, according to a release from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The National Weather Service has a winter storm warning in effect for East Tennessee from noon today until 7 a.m. Friday morning.
From 2 to 5 inches of snow is expected — over 6 inches on mountain tops and commuters are advised to plan on slippery road conditions.
Additionally, Blount and Loudon County schools will be closed today.
Jeff Headrick, Blount County Highway Superintendent, said he is expecting freezing rainfall, and added that workers have been begun pre-treating main roads and roads that don’t get much sunlight. Work has been ongoing since 9:45 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Instead of brine, a salt and water mixture, Headrick said crews use calcium to pre-treat, because the mineral is less harsh on vehicles and — hopefully — the environment.
He asked that commuters not only be cautious of road conditions, but also of the Blount County Highway Department workers.
Blount County Communications Center Director Jimmy Long said between midnight Sunday and 5 p.m. Tuesday during the first snowy weather this winter, people made 332 emergency calls and 552 non-emergency calls.
Within that same timeframe, he said they had reports for 69 fallen trees, 23 disabled vehicles/motorists needing assistance, two wrecks with injury, 18 wrecks with no injury and six traffic hazards.
Blount County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Marian O’Briant, said the highway department well-prepares roads before storms hit, but the ones that aren’t traveled as much can get slippery.
“Our advice to anyone who has to travel tomorrow is to keep an eye on the weather, monitor the news and watch for updates on road conditions.” O’Briant said. “Don’t get out on the roads if they look impassable.”
During snowy weather, Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul Clendenen said officers frequently check interstates to look for stranded drivers, update reporting on road conditions and communicate with TDOT on locations that need salt.
According to the TDOT release, nearly 200,000 tons of salt and more than 1.5 million gallons of brine are ready to be used.
It added that salt supplies were replenished in all 95 counties to prepare for upcoming winter ice and snow conditions, and salt vendors will refill them as needed in each county.
In total, TDOT’s weather budget for salt and brine, employee overtime and equipment maintenance is $25.6 million.
When the roads get snowy, TDOT focuses on clearing interstates, busy state routes and areas vulnerable to freezing, like bridges, hills and curves.
If weather warranted, updates on road conditions will be posted on TDOT’s and BCSO’s Facebook page.