published Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Freezing rain from the Mississippi to mountains

Knox County Engineering and Public Works maintenance crews prepare Thursday for an expected icy weather by spreading brine in Knoxville. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch beginning tonight through Friday evening in the Knoxville area, with the chances looking all but certain that there will be at least some ice-related problems
Knox County Engineering and Public Works maintenance crews prepare Thursday for an expected icy weather by spreading brine in Knoxville. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch beginning tonight through Friday evening in the Knoxville area, with the chances looking all but certain that there will be at least some ice-related problems
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE, — The freezing rain is a given for Tennessee. Forecasters say the questions are how much and where.

A freezing rain advisory was posted for Friday morning for most of West Tennessee and counties along the Alabama border. The rest of the central part of the state, including the Cumberland Plateau, was covered by a winter weather advisory. Farther east, a winter storm watch ran up the eastern Tennessee River Valley, including Chattanooga, Knoxville and the Tri-Cities.

“We’re not expecting anything major,” said meteorologist Danny Gant in the National Weather Service office in Memphis. He added that it will be “just enough to cause some travel issues.”

By Thursday afternoon, the effect on travel was already being felt. Nashville airport spokeswoman Emily Richard said American Airlines was canceling Thursday flights that were to finish in Nashville and Friday morning’s outbound flights. She urged passengers to check with their airlines before heading to the airport.

Memphis itself and Tennessee counties along the Mississippi state line could escape precipitation. But in places such as Dyersburg, Martin and Paris, around 0.1 inch of ice was expected with a 70 percent certainty.

Holly Waugh, a 28-year-old cosmetologist at Perfect Hair and Nails in Huntingdon, said she keeps an eye on the weather forecasts. She said the beauty salon and barber shop has a lot of older clients.

“We worry about them falling on the ice,” she said.

Waugh noted that it’s been colder than in past years and was aware of the weather service’s warnings.

“Most of the time, when we get weather like that, we usually don’t even come to work,” Waugh said.

In Martin, business is a bit slow at Zimm’s Nursery during the winter. But that does not stop owner Karl Zimmerman from worrying about the trees and shrubs he sells to landscaping companies. He said he has about 15 greenhouses, including one that’s heated.

“If there’s too much ice accumulated, it will cave the greenhouses in,” Zimmerman, 62, said. “You have to prop up the greenhouses to hold them up.”

He also worries that power will go out and affect the wells he has in aviaries that hold ornamental geese and ducks that he sells and ships to buyers.

“The well won’t work when the power goes out so it messes up my birds, too,” he said.

Zimmerman’s method of dealing with ice and freezing rain is similar to Waugh’s.

“We just don’t go anywhere,” he said. “A day or two, and it’s gone anyway.”

At least two school systems on the Cumberland Plateau announced plans to open late on Friday, as did the governments of Oak Ridge and Knox County and the Fort Campbell Army post on the Tennessee-Kentucky border. The Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge is allowing all but essential personnel to miss work on Friday.

Once through the morning commute, the driving situation should be considerably improved from the Mississippi River to the plateau as temperatures rise to around 40 degrees.

The heavy ice that brings down tree limbs and power lines wasn’t expected in the western half of Tennessee, but daytime temperatures Friday on the plateau and in East Tennessee were expected to be closer to freezing. The result could be more than a quarter-inch of ice and perhaps 0.5 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.

But 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.

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