Road crews brace for icy weather

Road crews brace for icy weather

December 15th, 2010 by Jeremy Belk in News

Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press/ - Hamilton County Highway Department employees Chris McNair, driving, and John Hale, passenger, man a salt truck on Sims Road on Mowbray Mountain in Soddy-Daisy. Freezing rain is predicted for Wednesday/Thursday days after snow. TDOT salt trucks are out salting the roadways in anticipation of the weather.

Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press/...

After wintry weather Sunday caused problems throughout the area, road crews are getting ready for the second wave expected to hit tonight.

Forecasters say timing will determine how much accumulated snow or freezing rain the Chattanooga area can expect.

"The key is how fast the precipitation moves in," said WRCB-TV Channel 3 meteorologist Paul Barys.

Barys said he expected a warm front to move into the city about 5 p.m., where it will slam into the frigid temperatures that have been hovering over the area all week. If the front arrives earlier than expected, there could be some accumulation, he said.

"If it gets here earlier it will be colder and the precipitation will stick," he said, and there could be some "glazing" of roads with ice Wednesday evening, especially in the mountains.

"It's going to be worse in the higher elevations," he said.

Those areas could see an inch of snow along with freezing rain, Barys said.

Meteorologist David Gaffin, with the National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tenn., said there could be up to one-tenth of an inch of ice this evening. However, he said any frozen precipitation will change to rain by midnight as temperatures begin to rise. Highs Thursday are expected to reach the 50s, he said.

"Everything should have melted by sunrise," he said.

In Signal Mountain, Public Works Director Loretta Hopper said they had just finished dealing with the weekend snow when they had to start scrambling for what's to come.

"We're trying to get over what we just had," Hopper said, adding that crews worked all night long Sunday to handle the snow.

On Tuesday, Signal Mountain public employees were making repairs to plows and brine spreaders so they would be ready today, she said. Crews also must check for frozen water lines around town, she said.

The low temperature in Signal Mountain on Tuesday morning was 7 degrees, she said.

"It hasn't been above freezing for days now," Hopper said.

EPB spokeswoman Lacie Newton said power crews will be stationed in areas where service interruptions could occur.

"From what we are seeing now, (the winter weather) is suppose to hit the area around 5 p.m.," Newton said. "Which happens to be when we'll have crews coming in."

Workers will be watching for ice, "our biggest challenge," Newton said.

Icing on power lines or trees could break the lines or snap off a tree limb that falls onto a line, causing an outage. If there are service interruptions, crews will be ready to respond, she promised.

"We're in a good position," Newton said. "We're prepared."

Chattanooga and Hamilton County road crews already had their trucks refilled with salt and sand after the Sunday snow. Tennessee Department of Transportation officials said trucks were salting roads in the Signal Mountain and Walden areas Tuesday.

Tony Boyd, assistant director of Chattanooga City Wide Services, said Tuesday that, after working long hours Sunday and Monday, crews got the day off in anticipation of extended hours this evening.

Amy Maxwell, Hamilton County Emergency Services public information officer, said county officials were in a conference call Tuesday with the National Weather Service and it appears the conditions today shouldn't be very bad, but the county would be ready for whatever happens.

But no matter how much salt and sand are laid on the roads, drivers need to drive cautiously, Boyd said. Speed plays an important factor when driving in snow and ice, and slowing down is key, he said.

"You cannot drive normal speeds when you don't have normal conditions," Boyd said.

As of Tuesday evening, no weather advisory had been issued for the Chattanooga area or North Georgia, Barys said.

Contact staff writer Jeremy Belk at or call 423-757-6345.