When the snow was at its thickest Wednesday night, people bundled in boots and coats began emerging from the apartments at Fontaine Woods on Mountain Creek Road.
A village of snowmen emerged from the white blanket and couples walked dogs among the figures, admiring the creations. But by midafternoon Thursday, many of the fantasy figures were slumped to the side, melting away in the bright sunshine that followed the storm.
At the front of Covenant Presbyterian Church on East Brainerd Road, on the edge of a hill, a 2-year-old girl toddled toward her sled. Vanessa Perez wore a purple sweatsuit covered with white dots and a pink bunny beanie wrapped around her head.
"She doesn't really know what this is," said her father, Nicolas, "but she loves it."
Nicolas, his wife, Brittnee, and some neighbors walked across East Brainerd Road on Thursday afternoon to try sledding on the hill next to the church. It's the best open spot near them to slide downhill.
Nicolas is from Mexico, but he's lived here long enough to grow used to snow days. Vanessa, meanwhile, was still getting acclimated.
She ran back and forth, stomping on the white powder. She scooped some up in a ball and squished it against her mother's leg. And then, eventually, she rode down the hill with a neighbor holding her tight, squealing the whole way.
COME IN, WE'RE OPEN
Lots of places closed when the big snowstorm hit, but the City Cafe Diner in downtown Chattanooga -- and its adjoining bar, The Office -- wasn't among them.
The 24-hour diner lived up to its billing.
"We don't have a lock on the door, baby. That's how we roll," General Manager Gary Hayworth said.
The only thing that Hayworth said might close the City Cafe is a nuclear holocaust.
"We're hoping not to test that one," he said.
By the time Emili Cribb opened Tupelo Honey Cafe's doors Thursday morning, the general manager had decided the restaurant would do its own part to help warm the city back up: A free mug of steamy tomato soup to every customer.
"It just seemed right," said Bibb. "If you are going to take the time to come through the weather and eat, then we may as well warm you up before we send you back out there."
By lunch, the restaurant had ladled out about 40 quarts of soup -- about double the usual daily amount, Cribb said.
"So far, pretty much everyone who has come in has taken us up on the offer," said Cribb.
KEEPING THE SCHEDULE
The 8 inches of snow that piled against the rows of white headstones at the Chattanooga National Cemetery was not enough to disrupt the clockwork consistency of the staff's daily routine, holding burial services and carefully tending the sprawling grounds.
Two burial services were slated for Thursday afternoon, employee Bill Sachse said, and they would proceed despite the snowfall, or in Thursday's case, the mess left by snow melting.
"We've been here every day as long as we need to be there," Sachse said. "There have been cases this winter where families have asked us to postpone a service. But on our end, we have not canceled for any weather."
A REASON TO GET OUT
Many businesses along Dayton Boulevard were still closed late Thursday morning. But McDonald's and the Waffle House were full of senior citizens, families and moms with young children looking to fill up time during a third straight day off of school.
Just down the boulevard, White Oak Barber Shop was bustling with customers. Owner Merritt Potter said a few barbers were missing because they couldn't get to work, but snowy days like Thursday always increase business.
"People just have nothing else to do because they can't get to work, or they don't have to go to work," he said. "It's undisturbed on these snowy days, but it's not your usual customers."
THAT'S WHAT HILLS ARE FOR
Lookout Valley students Qurun Gibson, 13, and Tyler Scruggs, 15, slid down a huge hill near Cummings Place Apartments and threw snowballs.
"No, I don't miss school," said Qurun, jumping and shaking his head. "I like this weather. I like sliding down the hill."
The only bad part is the mud, said Tyler, pointing to the stains on his pants that come from sliding as the snow melts.
In Harrison, the Bloom family had two snowmen in their yard greeting anyone who passed through on Morning Glory Drive. Pine cones were used to make a face on the largest snowman. Sticks were used to make the arms. The overnight snowfall had covered the builders' tracks and masked some of the snowman's features.
"We rolled [the snowman's body] all the way down from the hill last night,"said Amy Bloom, who was preparing to go to work by noon.
The family's two children, 5 and 11, made a smaller snowman next to the large one built by their father, Ryan.
It was the first time the youngest child had seen a large snowfall. The children planned to go up the street to their grandparents' home.
As time ticked away, the snow began to melt.
"It sounds like rain," Bloom said. "[My husband's] bummed he has to go in to work. He would rather play in the snow."
TRYING HARD IN TRION
On Tuesday, the town of Trion, Ga., got 4 inches of snow in just over 24 hours, which put it in the top 10 snow reports in the Southern Appalachian region.
That's according to what bills itself as "the ultimate source for snow information," the National Weather Service's National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center in Chanhassen, Minn.
"It's been at least 50 years since I can remember this much snow," Mayor Larry Stansell said.
He said the city's residents did a good job of staying off the roads and Trion's maintenance crew did an outstanding job of clearing away snow.
"I don't think you'll find a town or city anywhere in the area that did a better job than our maintenance crew," Stansell said.
Rite Aid Shift Supervisor JoAnn Mikes said she thought the snow was going to be a problem, but it wasn't as bad as she thought. She left her Rossville home and got to her work on McCallie Avenue without any incident. Of her six workers, only one was unable to make it.
"At first, I thought it was going to be bad. Once I got out there you see the roads are good and we've been having a lot of customers," she said.
Todd Wood and his wife enjoyed the 3 inches of snow that blanketed their Cranmore Cove home in Dayton, Tenn., until the power failed about 5 a.m. Thursday.
Wood, an educator, said the fun fled fast after that. The couple spent the morning shivering under layers of blankets, glad of the bright sunshine coming through the windows, while he tried to get some things done on his cellphone, their only working appliance.
"We are just sitting here praying for power to get turned back on," Wood said Thursday afternoon. "It's going to get uncomfortably cold here pretty soon."
By 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, snow was starting to melt. Patty and Damon Medic and their son, Zachary, walked down Forest Avenue in North Chattanooga through snow and sludge on their way to eat breakfast across the river. They live on one of the steepest streets in the neighborhood, and decided not to take any chances driving.
"It's really scary to go down [Abernathy Street]," Patty Medic said.
They stopped on the sidewalk to examine a large branch from an old magnolia tree that had fallen down in the snowstorm. The sunshine was melting the snow in the tree, causing it to spatter on the large leaves.
"It sounds like it's raining," Patty Medic said standing under the magnolia.