Tennessee's winter storm death toll hits 30 (interactive)

This is the house trailer in Sequatchie County where Bradley Sutter, a military veteran, was found on Feb. 18 after someone checked on him in sub-freezing weather. Sutter reportedly died from exposure.

Tennessee deaths from exposure

* 2015: at least 10 since Feb. 16 * 2014: unavailable * 2013: 13 * 2012: fewer than 10 * 2011: 12 * 2010: 24 Source: CDC, TEMA

States with most and least cold deaths

Most (2013) * Illinois: 42 * New York: 41 * Pennsylvania: 40 * Michigan: 38 * California: 33 Least (2013) North Carolina: 10 Utah: 11 Oklahoma: 12 Tennessee: 13 South Carolina: 13 Georgia: 13 Source: CDC

Snow forecast

A winter storm expected to arrive today is expected to deposit these amounts of snow: Alabama * Jackson County: 3-5 inches * DeKalb County: 4-6 inches Tennessee * Chattanooga: 2-4 inches * Southeast Tennessee counties: 2-4 inches * Higher elevations: up to 4 inches Georgia * Northeast counties: 2-4 inches, up to 6 inches in higher elevations Source: National Weather Service

Wednesday school closings

* Bradley County Schools - closed * Chattooga County Schools - closed * Chickamauga City Schools * Cleveland City Schools - closed * Dalton Public Schools - closed * Dalton State College - closed * Dekalb County Schools - closed * Etowah City Schools - closed * Georgia Northwestern Technical College (all campuses) - closed * McMinn County Schools - closed * Murray County Schools - closed * Polk County Schools - closed * Sweetwater City Schools - closed * Whitfield County Schools - closed

Other Wednesday closings

* Walker Transit - closing at noon

Thirty people have died of weather-related causes in Tennessee during the past 10 days.

Since officials declared a state of emergency on Feb. 16, at least 10 people have died of hypothermia, while the remainder died in vehicle accidents, fires and from medical emergencies in which access to care was hindered by the weather.

It's an unusually high toll in an unusually short amount of time -- last year, only five people in Tennessee died during all of the state's declared emergencies, and those people died in tornadoes and flooding, not from the cold or snow- and ice-slickened roads, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Nationally, even some states that have been harder hit by winter storms this year have had fewer weather-related deaths than Tennessee.

"A large piece of the pie was here in Tennessee," said Ken Wilkerson, director of Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services. "But when you look at what's gone on across the nation, we haven't had an inordinate amount of weather compared to everyone else."

But more snow is on the way today, weather forecasters say. Snow is expected to hit the Chattanooga area sometime this evening, likely at or just after rush hour.

In the tri-state area, a homeless man was found dead in Chattanooga on Feb. 17; 85-year-old veteran Bradley Sutter was found dead a day later in Sequatchie County; and a 79-year-old man was discovered dead Feb. 20 in Polk County. All died of weather-related causes, officials have said.

Several factors may be driving up the death toll, experts say. Last week's storms deposited ice and knocked out power to large swaths of the Cumberland Plateau, said Julia Wright, director of the American Red Cross for Southeast Tennessee.

That left many people without power as temperatures plummeted, she said. The Red Cross has opened five emergency shelters that now house more than 300 people.

Another intensifying factor has been the long-lasting and rapid pace of the storms, she added.

"We haven't gotten a break for the last week-and-a-half," Wright said. "They've been back-to-back."

That rapid pace can put an extra strain on local and county governments as officials try to keep roads cleared, Sequatchie County Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock said.

"These small counties don't have the money to prepare like they should for bad weather like we've had, this close together," he said. "If it is two or three weeks in between it's OK, but when it hits every three or four days, it's hard to guesstimate what you're going to need."

In general, people in rural areas tend to die from cold more often than people in urban areas, according to a 2014 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who are very young or very old are also more at risk, as well as people with pre-existing medical conditions, homeless people and alcoholics, according to the CDC.

The average age of Tennessee's confirmed hypothermia victims is 66.

"It has a lot to do with general health," Wilkerson said. "Part of the reason we see an increase during cold weather like this is that a lot of the population is affected by underlying medical conditions. Those conditions are exacerbated by the cold."

The study also found that more people died from weather-related incidents in poorer areas than wealthier areas, which could indicate that people can't afford to properly insulate their homes, pay to turn up the heat or buy appropriate clothing.

Tennessee's weather fatalities are spread throughout the state. The youngest victim was 10 years old, and the oldest 85. Dean Flener, spokesman for TEMA, said each weather-related death is unique and it's impossible to draw any generalized conclusions from the deaths.

"It's been a deadly storm, and that's it," Flener said.

Contact staff reporter Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.

Read more

* Winter-weary area braces for more snow; up to 6 inches forecast across region * Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam urges people to check on neighbors as storm moves in * Red Cross: Prepare as winter weather rebounds in Metro Atlanta, North Georgia * Alabama governor declares state of emergency ahead of winter storm * Gov. Deal declares state of emergency ahead of winter storm

Tennessee weather deaths

Since Feb. 16, Tennessee has recorded at least 30 weather-related fatalities. Benton County * 64-year-old woman, vehicle accident Campbell County * 76-year-old man, weather related * 32-year-old man, weather related Claiborne County * 63-year-old man, weather related * 53-year-old man, weather related Cumberland County * 83-year-old man, carbon monoxide poisoning Hamilton County * 63-year-old man, hypothermia Haywood County * 40-year-old woman, vehicle accident Henry County * 64-year-old woman, hypothermia * 69-year-old man, hypothermia Hickman County * 67-year-old man, dialysis patient unable to get treatment Knox County * 30-year-old man, vehicle accident * 75-year-old man, fire * 68-year-old woman, fire * 47-year-old man, fire Moore County * 73-year-old man, hypothermia Overton County * 38-year-old woman, vehicle accident Polk County * 79-year-old man, weather related Roane County * 44-year-old man, hypothermia Sequatchie County * 85-year-old man, hypothermia Sevier County * 70-year-old woman, weather related * unknown man, weather related Shelby County * 48-year-old man, hypothermia * Unknown man, hypothermia * Unknown person, hypothermia Sumner County * 60-something man, weather related Wayne County * 82-year-old man, weather related Weakley County * 82-year-old man, fall, hypothermia Williamson County * 34-year-old woman, vehicle accident * 10-year-old boy, vehicle accident Source: TEMA

photo This is the house trailer in Sequatchie County where Bradley Sutter, a military veteran, was found on Feb. 18 after someone checked on him in sub-freezing weather. Sutter reportedly died from exposure.