published Saturday, January 26th, 2013

Chattanooga, get ready for weather seesaw: Ice threats retreat for now, but wait awhile

Cody McDonald rides his bicycle along Signal Mountain Boulevard during a light, chilly rain Friday.
Cody McDonald rides his bicycle along Signal Mountain Boulevard during a light, chilly rain Friday.
Photo by Patrick Smith.

Seriously. Where else can you live where you can have a cold-and-ice day Friday and a sunny, near-50 afternoon of glory today?

But don't think that's the only twist of mercury Mother Nature has in store for East Tennessee within a week.

Forecasters say the Chattanooga region will run the gamut from Friday's icy patios to today's balmy spring sunshine to Monday and Tuesday's oddly warm rains, then Wednesday's threat of storms as cold air gushes back.

And right after that? You guessed it: a good chance of snow showers the very next day.

What's the saying? If you don't like the weather, just hang around a few hours and it will change?

"Yep. It keeps me busy," said Paul Barys, chief meteorologist with WRCB-TV Channel 3.

Sam Roberts, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn., said forecasting crystal balls known as weather models are undecided at this point on just how much of a threat the Wednesday storms may be.

"One model shows a pretty good line of storms running through," he said. "But the other doesn't show the system very organized as it moves east" into the Tennessee Valley.

But he suggests not putting the flashlights away.

"Any time you have that clash of warm and cold air, you have some potential," Roberts said.

Dodging bullet

On Friday, Chattanooga just did dodge the ice bullet, even though the nearby mountains did get a thin layer on twigs and sidewalks.

Areas north of the city -- especially Knoxville -- were not so lucky. By 9 a.m. the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency had declared a state of emergency.

"Due to ice and wrecks, TEMA has gone to a level 3 activation and a state of emergency is in effect," according to a statewide news release from TEMA spokesman Dean Flener.

Most of the trouble was along the Interstate 40 corridor, Flener said, with I-40 receiving heavy freezing rain.

But Interstate 24 also was a trouble spot, especially in Montgomery County where 20 motor accidents had been reported in the first hours of daylight.

Smartway reports

TEMA officials said the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Smartway system on Friday morning reported six roadway incidents and 69 ice/snow-covered highways and two extremely hazardous highways.

"[I-24] is a sheet of ice ... Kentucky has been alerted to warn drivers heading south about the icy conditions," according to the TEMA statement.

Flener said TEMA cannot declare regional states of emergency, but statewide declarations such as the Friday are fairly common.

"That allows us to bring people in here and be prepared to respond if a county needs help," he said. "It also gives us the legal authority to make decisions to act."

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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