First Chattanooga area snow promises to be light; good news for holiday travelers

First Chattanooga area snow promises to be light; good news for holiday travelers

November 27th, 2013 by Mike Pare and Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

POLL: Is the weather affecting your holiday travel plans?

Forget Black Thursday and Black Friday - Ober Gatlinburg is hoping for White Friday.

The Smoky Mountain skiing and snowboarding resort in Gatlinburg, Tenn., expects cold temperatures will persist and allow it to pump out enough man-made snow to open three slopes tomorrow.

"It'll be the first time we've opened in November since 1989," director of sales and marketing Kathy Doyle said.

While much of the East Coast and Northeast were bracing for rotten weather that threatens to snarl the busiest travel day of the year, it looked like the Chattanooga area's first snow of the season would be a light one.

"The roads should be OK," WRCB-TV's chief meteorologist, Paul Barys, said Tuesday afternoon. While the weather will be cold, the storm system was losing moisture needed to make much snow, he said.

He predicted an inch or less would fall on ridges around Chattanooga.

"North Georgia doesn't look bad at all," Barys said. "Toward Gatlinburg, that's where you start to get 4 to 5 inches."

Still, road crews weren't going to get caught unprepared.

"I'm not expecting snow -- but we are preparing for it," said Tony Boyd, assistant director of citywide services for the Department of Public Works. "We don't expect a whole lot of trouble out of this one."

Chattanooga police close the fast lane of Interstate 24 west of the Ridge cut as a rollback truck loads a disabled vehicle Tuesday afternoon. Eastbound I-24 traffic was slowed back to the U.S. Highway 27 split near downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

The city of Chattanooga on Tuesday afternoon was loading up six trucks with salt and sand to spread on bridges and overpasses, which might ice up because of low temperatures, Boyd said. Eight city trucks were going to start spraying brine at 3 a.m. today, he said, focusing first on main arterial roads such as Hixson Pike and Brainerd Road and then spreading out from there.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation also had its trucks prepped.

"They've got the plows in the front and salt in the back and they're ready to go," TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said.

TDOT trucks focus on interstates and state routes. The agency has 11 trucks assigned to Hamilton County, five in Bradley, 7 in McMinn, four in Meigs and six in Polk, she said. There's a 5,000-t0n salt bin at TDOT Region 2 headquarters on Cromwell Road in Chattanooga, Flynn said.

Chattanooga Airport officials said they're ready for whatever the weather throws at them.

"While we can't control activities such as delays and cancellations at other airports, our crews are fully trained to take the necessary precautions to make sure our runways are safe and our facilities are fully operational in abnormal weather conditions," said airport spokesman Albert Waterhouse.

But, he said, passengers are urged to check with their air carriers shortly before traveling.

Some air travelers at the airport Tuesday were on edge though hopeful of reaching their destinations without incident.

Kevin Barker, who was traveling to Chicago, said the weather there looked OK, but he worried about other people flying into the Northeast or locations heavily impacted by the forecast.

"I've got my fingers crossed," he said. "I kind of feel bad for them."

Mike Barrett, who was flying into Indianapolis, said he hoped to make his connecting flight through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport without a problem.

"It's not unusual to have all kinds of delays," he said. "It will be nuts tomorrow."

Frankie Woll said she was traveling back to Germany after her husband's four-year stint at Volkswagen.

"It looks good, so far," she said.

Contact staff writer Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarau at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.