Big chill follows snow fun

Big chill follows snow fun

January 31st, 2010 by Matt Wilson and Brittany Cofer in News

Cardboard, garbage can lids and an inflatable boat littered the bottom of a hill at Renaissance Park on Saturday afternoon as Chattanooga residents relished the winter weather.

Tim Aslinger, 28; Matt Reeves, 27; and Casey Smith, 28, took a break from sledding down the muddied hill to try their luck throwing a snowball through a hole in one of the park's sculptures.

"Yes!" they all yelled as the tightly packed ball of snow made its way through the target.

"We've had a snowball fight, been taking pictures of the views and getting wet and muddy," said Kari Gentry, 30, of East Ridge.

Multiple trips down the hill turned the snow mostly to mud, but the group didn't seem to mind as they slid down on their makeshift sleds.

Staff Photo by Tim Barber Randy Lewis uses his tractor with a plow to clear the 1100 block of Hotwater Road on Mowbray Mountain. The Mowbray Volunteer Fire Department cleared downed trees all along the top of the mountain near Soddy-Daisy.

Though snow tends to bring out people young and old for a chance to play, for some it means more work.

Salt, gas cans, plywood and sleds flew off the shelves of the Broad Street Ace Hardware on Friday and Saturday, said team leader Bud Wilson. The store ordered 72 sleds Thursday, shipped 24 to another store and sold out of the remaining 48 by Friday evening, he said.

Mr. Wilson said the weather helped the store's sales, but with few employees on hand it made for a busy day.

Also bustling with business Saturday were towing and wrecker companies throughout the area.

"We've been real busy," said Mike Simmons, owner of A-1 Towing in Chattanooga. "It's not very much towing, just pulling people out of ditches."

Since Friday, Mr. Simmons' drivers have responded to at least 75 calls of cars sliding off the road or stuck in ditches. He said broken down vehicles so far haven't been common, but he worried that with the chance of dropping temperatures Saturday night, ice would bring more danger for drivers today.

Throughout most of the region police reported scattered incidents of trees down and noninjury traffic incidents. One Middle Tennessee woman was killed Saturday when a tree weighed down with ice crashed into her mobile home, according to The Associated Press.

Jim Templeton, director of citywide services for Chattanooga's Public Works, said Saturday that roads were improving and trucks would continue to distribute brine as needed, but the potential for falling temperatures was still on his mind.

"If it freezes up, stay in if at all possible," Mr. Templeton said. "I would suggest not even getting on the roads until the temperature starts rising."

Even as temperatures warm up today and the snow begins to melt, Mr. Simmons said he expects to be busy at least through Monday pulling out stuck vehicles.

"When it starts melting, people say, 'I've always pulled back in my yard,' but now they can't," he said. "They think that they've never gotten stuck before, but they're going to get stuck now. It's just going to get busier and busier."

Some residents of Sale Creek didn't have to call a towing company Friday night, though, thanks to a pair of enterprising Sale Creek High School basketball players. Hunter Deifenderfer, 15, and Zach Keylon, 17, spent about six hours giving folks who were stranded in the snow on the side of the road rides home on their four-wheelers.

"They were everywhere," Hunter said. "We felt bad for them. We were in a warm house, and they were out on the side of the road in tennis shoes. Some of them didn't even have jackets."

Mr. Keylon said the two students had their four-wheelers gassed up and ready to go again in case any other drivers needed to go a few extra miles to get home this weekend.

POWER OUTAGES

About 9,500 EPB customers were still without power at 6 p.m. Saturday, according to spokeswoman Lacie Newton.

Ms. Newton said all the company's crews as well as crews from outside the county were working on the outages, but nature was working against them. She said they had restored power to hundreds of customers only to have power go out in other areas.

"As soon as we get something fixed, another tree falls or something else happens," she said.

The outages started about midnight Friday and were the result of icy trees and ice itself coming into contact with power lines.

Ms. Newton said she expected the restoration effort to continue through Saturday night and into today.

"Because of the continuing addition of new outages, we are not able to predict when we'll have everyone's power back on," she said.

The hardest-hit parts of the county were Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Soddy-Daisy, Hixson, Bakewell/Sale Creek and Red Bank, each of which had more than 500 homes without power, according to EPB's Web site. The Ooltewah-Collegedale area and East Brainerd each had between 100 and 500 homes without power.

JANUARY PRECIPITATION

* 2010: 5.78 inches

* 2009: 5.11 inches

Source: National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn.

Robert McCarty, spokesman for the Volunteer Energy Cooperative, said Saturday afternoon there were about 250 "scattered outages" in Bradley County, with about 300 in Rhea County, 300 in Cumberland County and 50 in McMinn and Roane counties.

WEATHER CONDITIONS

Chattanoogans might see flurries of snow this morning, but much of the snow should begin to melt as the day goes on, said Jerry Hevrdeys, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn. Mr. Hevrdeys said Chattanooga is under a winter weather advisory until noon today. Highs are expected to be in the upper 30s to low 40s, he said.

Residents of North Georgia should expect slightly higher temperatures, near 46, said meteorologist Frank Taylor with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga.

Monday is expected to be sunny, with highs in the lower to mid-40s in Chattanooga and close to 50 degrees in North Georgia, according to the National Weather Service.

Staff writer Matt Wilson contributed to this story.