published Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

From snow to ice

As area residents began digging out of the snow Tuesday, authorities warned that freezing temperatures could create havoc in the next few days as water ices on roads.

WRCB Channel 3 meteorologist Nick Austin said Tuesday that temperatures in the Chattanooga area and North Georgia were just above freezing. He said temperatures this morning are expected to be around 18 to 22 degrees.

"The problem is going to be refreezing," Austin said. "Secondary roads could be very icy."

He said heavily traveled roads and interstate highways could have some icy patches. He said there could be problems with freezing throughout the week until Saturday, when temperatures are supposed to rise into the 40s.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Stein Construction Co. employee Carlos Botista clears snow from the sidewalk in front of Lane Bryant at the Shoppes of Hamilton Place early Tuesday.

Tony Boyd, assistant director of Chattanooga Public Works, said plows, graders, trucks hauling brine, salt and sand have been out since Sunday night. On Tuesday afternoon, he said crews were trying to clear residential roads.

Boyd suggested driving only during the day, if possible, when it will be easier to see ice.

"Limit your travel at night if you can," he said.

Crews will work all week on roads until temperatures rise and the snow has melted, he said.

Chattanooga Police Department Sgt. Jerri Weary said there were no serious weather-related traffic accidents, but several motorists had to abandon vehicles after getting stuck.

Jennifer Flynn, Tennessee Department of Transportation community relations officer, said all state roadways are open.

"They're not fantastic, but they're passable," she said.

Amy Maxwell, public information officer for Hamilton County Emergency Management Services, cautioned against driving unnecessarily.

"The problems are going to occur tonight [Tuesday], mainly because the temperatures are going to drop and all this slush that's on the roads is going to ice up," she said. "If you can leave a little later tomorrow, I would suggest you do so."

GEORGIA TRAVEL

The Georgia Department of Transportation is giving priority to clearing interstates and main highways, according to spokesman Mohamed Arafa.

"Interstates are clear of snow, but they can refreeze," Arafa said Tuesday. "We believe the ice is more dangerous than the snow."

Catoosa County Manager Mike Helton said main roads there were "fairly clear" Tuesday afternoon and secondary roads were getting there. Crews planned to start on subdivision roads later in the day, but most neighborhood roads likely would not get attention until today, he said.

The deep snow and ice have been a challenge, according to Helton.

"Some of our places, even where they scrape they can't get that bottom layer [of ice] off," he said.

By Tuesday afternoon some road crew workers had logged 36 hours straight, and employees from other county departments were pitching in to help out, according to Helton.

"Some of those people need a rest," he said.

Both Helton and Chattooga County emergency management director Eddie Henderson said they have plenty of salt and sand on hand for several more days if needed.

"Everything that's thawed today will ice again tonight," Henderson said.

That's the primary concern for Reese Carroll, operations manager for the city of Dalton. Carroll said crews were trying to at least apply some salt and sand to public roads before they iced overnight.

"That's the main problem right now," he said. "We're going to run as long as my men hold out. "

Walker County coordinator David Ashburn said roads were "dramatically improved" Tuesday over Monday, but still dangerous.

FORECAST

Today: Partly cloudy with snow flurries. High of 30; low of 16.

Thursday: Mostly sunny but cold. High of 30; low of 13.

Friday: Sunny. High of 35; low of 22.

Source: WRCB-Channel 3

SCHOOL SHUTDOWNS

Most area Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia school systems remain closed today. For an updated list go to timesfreepress.com.

POWER OUT?

Report power outages to EPB by calling 423-648-1372 or visiting epb.net.

This is the fourth time trucks have been deployed for ice this winter, and county crews have begun adding limestone to the sand-salt mix they are spreading because the supply is getting low, he said.

"We're getting a little tight," Ashburn said. "We usually don't have that many snow events throughout the year, and of course this one has covered every inch of Walker County."

EAST TENNESSEE CLEANUP

Road crews throughout East Tennessee were busy Tuesday spreading salt, said Tony Brown, a supervisor with the Cleveland Public Works Department.

The large volume of snow and now the freezing of melted snow means streets once cleared may have to be worked again, Brown said.

"We are waiting as long as we can to allow melting and runoff. And the breeze we have right now helps, too," he said during a lunch break Tuesday in front of the Bradley County Courthouse. "We are trying to be as conservative as we can and still get the job done."

Marion County Road Superintendent Neal Webb said refreezing Tuesday night was his concern, too.

"We try to catch all our main routes first, so police and ambulance [personnel], if they need to, can get close to the people," he said.

His department's 19 employees have been pulling 12-hour shifts or more since the storm began, stopping only at night for safety reasons, Webb said.

"Our roads are not like state routes. We have a lot of mountain roads. There are low-hanging [power] lines sometimes, and in some cases we have to back down," he said.

In McMinn County, Tuesday was another slow-going snow day, according to dispatchers at the communications center. The number of accidents was no more than usual, and there had been no weather-related medical emergencies by noon.

In Rhea County, the sheriff's department continued advising extreme caution on local roadways Tuesday.

Staff writers Randall Higgins, Andy Johns and Kate Harrison contributed to this story.

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