Storm brings snowmen, not snowpocalypse to Chattanooga area

Adrian Hurlbut builds a snowman in Highland Park as several inches of snow covers the area Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in Chattanooga.
photo Rachel Johnson jokes with friends while sitting on a "snow throne" she built at Red Bank's White Oak park on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015.


SCHOOL CLOSINGSHamilton County Schools Athens City Schools Bledsoe County Schools Bradley County Schools Calhoun City Schools Catoosa County Schools Chattooga County Schools Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy Chattanooga State - opening at 10 a.m. Chickamauga City Schools Cleveland City Schools Dade County Schools Dalton City Schools DeKalb County Schools Fort Payne City Schools Gordon County Schools Grundy County Schools Jackson County Schools Marion County Schools McMinn County Schools Meigs County Schools Murray County Schools Northeast Alabama Community College Polk County Schools Rhea County Schools Richard Hardy SchoolScottsboro City Schools closedSequatchie County Schools University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Walker County Schools Whitfield County Schools SCHOOL DELAYS Chattanooga Christian School - delayed 2 hours Georgia Northwestern Technical College (all campuses) delayed until 10 a.m. OTHER CLOSINGS AND DELAYS CHI Memorial - delayed until 10 a.m. The Chattanooga Heart Institute - delayed until 10 a.m. Cherokee County Health Department - closed CHI Memorial Cardiac Rehab - delayed until 10 a.m. DeKalb County government offices - delayed 2 hours DeKalb County senior centers - closed Fannin County Health Department - closed Gilmer County Health Department - closed Jackson County courts - closed Murray County Health Department - closed North Georgia Health District - opening at noon Pickens County Health Department - closed UTC/Cleveland State Community College media event - postponed Walker Transit - closed Whitfield County Health Department - closed

photo Adrian Hurlbut builds a snowman in Highland Park as several inches of snow covers the area Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in Chattanooga.

The three firemen packed snow into buckets with gusto.

Not to clear a road or rescue a driver or dig out a snowed-in house -- just to build an igloo.

"This is a stress reliever for us," said fireman Josh Burchard at the station on Main Street.

They laughed and threw snowballs and strategized on roof-building techniques until an alarm came in.

"That's us," one said. They grabbed the shovels and sprinted inside.

The firefighters had reason to smile Thursday -- although the Chattanooga region was blanketed with the most snow seen here in four years, the city and region emerged relatively unscathed from the heavy, wet snow that fell fast and hard Wednesday night.

A few minor crashes were reported throughout the region, including two in Bradley County and 10 across four counties in North Georgia, but for the most part motorists heeded officials' warnings to stay home and off the roads.

That cooperation, coupled with the timing of the storm and the advance warning of its approach, helped the region slide through one of the top 25 one-day snowfalls in the last 130 years with more focus on snowman-making than emergency response.

"It's been real good so far because everybody, for the most part, stayed home and behaved themselves," said Marion County Emergency Agency Director Steve Lamb.

The storm capped a two-week stretch of unusually wintry weather in the Tennessee Valley and across the state that shut down schools for days, closed businesses and killed 29 people. Hamilton County schools are closed again today.

But unlike the surprise snow that paralyzed the city last year, this time road crews were able to keep up with the snow on main roads as it fell Wednesday, although secondary routes and smaller roads were quickly covered in white.

Ted Rumley, Dade County executive, worked through the night Wednesday alongside the road crew, the fire department and the sheriff's office. He drove one of the county's nine snow plows, beginning around 4:30 p.m. They kept the plows running the whole night.

"Once you start, you can't stop. Thirty minutes, 45 minutes later, it's still snowing. You got to keep going with it," he said.

The snow fell at a rate of about an inch an hour for several hours late Wednesday and into Thursday, brought in from the west by a low-pressure system that swept cold air and moisture in across the Gulf. Roads were impassable in several counties as the snow cut down on visibility and slickened pavement.

"Early on, the snow fell hard and fast. Roadways were covered quickly and vehicles began to slide," said Bradley County Emergency Management Agency spokesman Stan Clark.

At least 11 people were treated at Erlanger on Thursday for weather-related injuries, spokeswoman Pat Charles said, including two from motor vehicle accidents.

But the main problem on the roads Wednesday night was the large number of abandoned vehicles, said Amy Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Hamilton County EMS. Numerous cars were left on the road in the path of snow plows and emergency vehicles, which had trouble getting through.

At least 16 cars were abandoned along Signal Mountain Road alone. On Thursday, the Tennessee Highway Patrol towed all vehicles abandoned on exit ramps or in emergency lanes, Lt. John Harmon said.

Drivers who suspect their cars were towed should call the Highway Patrol at 634-6898 to find out where to retrieve their vehicles, he added.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, temperatures climbed into the 40s and the snow started to drip away. While it failed to cause any major problems in the Tennessee Valley when it fell, the region could experience flooding as the snow melts, said Dean Flener, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

"Whenever you get that amount of snow melt, flooding can be a concern because you're so mountainous and hilly over there," he said on the phone from Nashville. "With all that running down, you could see some flash flooding. That's just something to be aware of."

Contact staff reporter Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or [email protected] with tips or story ideas. Contact staff writer Ben Benton at [email protected] or or or 423-757-6569. Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at [email protected] or 423-757-6476. Staff writer Kendi Anderson contributed to this report.

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Thursday's snowfall of 6.3 inches came in 22nd on the list, well below the highest days: 18.5 inches - March 3, 1993 12 inches - Dec. 4, 1886 10.2 inches - Jan. 7, 1988 9.9 inches - Feb. 10, 1912 9.4 inches - March 11, 1926 Source: National Weather Service SNOWFALLS IN THE REGION 10-12 inches - Sequatchie County 9-10 inches - Dade County 7-10 inches - Mentone, Ala. 7-8 inches - Walker County 7.5 inches - Soddy-Daisy 6.3 inches - Chattanooga 6 inches - Marion County 5-7 inches - Catoosa County 5.5 inches - Chattooga County 5 inches - Bledsoe County 5 inches - Monteagle 3 inches - Franklin County Source: Local officials Send an email to [email protected] with your closing information.