Winter surprises with more snow

Published 11:10 am Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NW0225 More Snow D 4x5

By Ashley Rader and Abby Morris-Frye

Where did all this snow come from?

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This was probably a common exclamation from people around the county as they woke up Tuesday morning to find their yards once again blanketed with a thick coating of white, fluffy snow.

The snow was not a complete surprise, but the amount that came from this storm system was definitely more than what was first expected.

The storm front strengthened late Monday afternoon and evening, which shortened the amount of time available to send out a warning for the approaching snow, National Weather Service meteorologist Derek Eisentrout said Tuesday morning.

“We did have snow in the forecast for inch or less in the valleys and 1 to 2 inches in the mountains,” Eisentrout said. “The models in the afternoon showed that low pressure system intensifying.”

The NWS issued a winter weather advisory and a winter storm warning late Monday night to inform the public about the heavier snow in the forecast.

When the snow arrived overnight, the system dropped about 3 inches in the lower elevations and about 5 inches in the mountains. The arrival of more winter precipitation left motorists with a slick commute to work Tuesday morning.

“It was slippery, as you can imagine,” said Carter County Emergency Management Director Gary Smith. “The crews were out early working to clear the roads. TDOT did a great job getting the main roads clear and the local crews were working hard to get some improvement on the side streets.”

Smith reported an average snowfall of 3-5 inches across the county. Early Tuesday morning, the side roads remained slick and hazardous while the main routes through town had at least one lane clear for traffic.

Carter County 911 reported officers responded to at least 10 traffic accidents Tuesday morning. On some county roads, vehicles that had run off the road due to the slippery conditions could be seen parked in the snow where drivers left them.

“All back roads are slick, and we encourage people not to drive unless it is absolutely necessary,” Smith said. “We know everyone has to get to work, but if driving can be delayed until after the crews have had a chance to treat the roads, that is best.”

Tennessee Department of Transportation crews have been out since midnight Tuesday treating road surfaces in east Tennessee, said TDOT Community Relations Officer Mark Nagi.

“Our crews have been out treating the roadways pretty much since then,” Nagi said. “Our crews will stay on the road for as long as necessary.”

City of Elizabethton road crews responded to the storm at around 3 a.m. Tuesday, Street Department Director Danny Hilbert. Crews had to battle fast-falling snow and work around morning commuters while clearing streets of the wintry precipitation.

“When it started, it came fast,” Hilbert said. “We would have the streets in pretty good shape and then another burst would come through and cover it back over. Another thing that made it difficult this morning is the snow came right at peak morning traffic time. People were all out trying to get to work, but we were fortunate we had no issues and we got the road cleared.”

The storm covered the city in a pretty even layer of snow, Hilbert said.

“Usually we can count on it being worse on the west side of town, but this time it was all about the same,” he said. “We watched the weather early (Tuesday), and it came out like they said it would this morning.”

The story was much the same for county roads.

“I got up this morning and looked out and thought, ‘My goodness, look at this snow!’ ” Carter County Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said.

County road crews began working early Tuesday morning trying to keep roads clear as the snow began to pile up. “Mostly what we’ve been doing this morning is just pushing the snow to clear the accumulation from the roads,” Colbaugh said Tuesday. Once we get that cleared, we can put down some more block dust and salt.”

The Stoney Creek community and Roan Mountain saw somewhat more hazardous road conditions Colbaugh said, but he said the snow had affected roads countywide. “This is a situation where it’s everywhere,” he said.

In mountainous areas, Colbaugh said crews were battling snow drifts that were accumulating on roads and some treacherous conditions where even their trucks wouldn’t go.

“Some places the trucks can’t get to we are having to put graders in to get the drifts cleared off,” he said.

This snow storm will not be alone. Another front is planned to hit the area Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

“Maybe we can get this cleared away before this next one comes through,” Colbaugh said.