published Monday, February 10th, 2014

Chattanooga plans ahead for weather relapse

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Chattanooga weather forecast

Today

High 43, low 30

Chance of precipitation: 40 percent

Forecast: A slight chance of rain before midnight, then a chance of snow.

Tuesday

High 38, low 31

Chance of precipitation: 60 percent

Forecast: Snow likely before 1 p.m., then rain is likely. Could snow after 10 p.m.

Wednesday

High 41, low 33

Chance of precipitation: 40 percent

Forecast: A chance of snow before 11 a.m., then a chance of rain.

Thursday

High 47, low 32

Chance of precipitation: 20 percent

Forecast: A slight chance of rain and snow.

Source: National Weather Service

Here we go again. Maybe.

Two weeks after an unexpected winter storm hit the tri-state area and caused mayhem across the South, wintry weather is once again in the forecast.

The National Weather Service predicted that a mix of rain and snow will hit North Georgia by this evening, while Chattanooga could receive snow by midnight and 2 inches all told by Wednesday morning.

The lesson of an unexpected snowfall Jan. 21 that paralyzed roads, nearly turned a day at school into a slumber party for some students and transformed reasonable commutes into daylong affairs is still fresh on the minds of area public officials.

"I think the last event definitely got everyone's attention and made them hyperaware of what's going on," said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Region 2 office in Chattanooga.

It wasn't the depth of the recent snowfall -- a couple of inches in most places -- that wreaked havoc, but the fact that it froze into a glaze of ice on the region's roads just as businesses and schools were letting out early. Cars, trucks and buses slid, slipped and slammed into each other, blocking roads and prompting some drivers to abandon their vehicles.

The problems came partly because many roads were not pre-treated. This time around, action is being taken.

TDOT and Hamilton County both laid brine this weekend, and Flynn said the interstates may receive another dose of the preventative concoction today as possible snow and sleet creep into the area.

The county did treat its roads prior to the storm two weeks ago, but the city did not.

"Our Public Works Department is diligently watching the weather," city spokeswoman Lacie Stone said in a statement Sunday evening. "Currently, all brine trucks are loaded and can be dispatched at a moment's notice.

"While timing is subject to changes in the weather, at this time Public Works plans to brine bridges, overpasses and higher elevations Monday afternoon or evening and progress to main routes with brine and salt as the need arises."

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith could not be reached Sunday to discuss plans for possible early releases or closings.

The Peach State also is receiving a fair warning this time.

Across North Georgia, a winter storm watch was slated to remain in effect until Wednesday morning. WRCB meteorologist Nick Austin said that in Gilmer County, Ga., up to 6 inches of snow could accumulate based on Sunday projections.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Sunday night he had alerted emergency responders to begin preparing.

"I encourage all Georgians in affected areas to make the necessary preparations tonight and tomorrow -- including plans to be off the road by early evening so that DOT crews can begin pretreating the roads," Deal said in an emailed statement. "From early afternoon on, please stay off the roads if at all possible so that we limit traffic and make way for workers to treat the highways."

The weather service also placed North Alabama under a similar watch, saying that significant wintry precipitation likely will affect travel across North Alabama and southern Middle Tennessee overnight and into Tuesday.

As last month's storm indicated, though, the unexpected is always a possibility.

"Anything can change," Austin said. "If the whole system shifts just a little bit, it changes the whole picture."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

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