Snowfall hits the region, forecasters expect more

Marcos Lewis, left, takes advantage of the snow Tuesday to toss a snow ball at Quillen Thornton.

Another batch of winter weather shuttered school doors and brought road crews out Tuesday as more snow moved into Loudon County and East Tennessee on Monday night into early Tuesday.

With a whole week off due to ice lingering on roads throughout last week, both Lenoir City and Loudon County schools are slowly marking off the allotted number of snow days in the school year with the recent bout of winter weather. Loudon County Schools allots 11 snow days each year but has four days left after Tuesday’s closure. Previous closures include two days in January due to widespread illness and four days for last week’s winter weather.

Director of Schools Jason Vance said should winter weather persist this school year, the district will address when to make up those snow days at a later date.

“I’d like to stay away from spring break if I could because I know a lot of people schedule a year in advance whenever we present the school calendar, and they enjoy going on vacation during spring break,” Vance said. “I think we may have a day or two between now and May that we might could squeeze in if we had to, but right now it’s my hope we won’t have to, and we will simply be able to finish up the year without using anymore snow days than we’ve already got banked.”

Vance said he believes the district is well-prepared for upcoming Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program testing, despite having to use so many snow days this year.

“Kids are resilient; teachers are great in Loudon County to adapt and overcome situations, so I have great faith they’ll have kids prepared for the TCAP with the understanding that we don’t miss a whole lot more between now and then,” Vance said. “While I think we are OK right now, if we miss a lot more then I think the question may come back up again.”

Lenoir City Schools Superintendent Jeanne Barker could not be reached for comment by Tuesday’s presstime.

“Friday (Barker) said we were still in good shape,” Lenoir City Board of Education chairman Rick Chadwick said Tuesday. “I don’t know how many more days we have.

“If we had to take off we will take off. The first thing is safety,” he added. “And then if we do go over the allotment of time we have I’m sure Dr. Barker will get together with the board, and we will have to look at what dates we would have the kids come in.”

Roads clear quickly

While the severity of this week’s winter weather came as a surprise for most, roads throughout Loudon County were clear for the most part by midday Tuesday.

“We’ve pretty much got everything done now except we are on secondary roads now, and I think we’ll have it all cleared up by dark, at least passable,” Loudon County Highway Department Superintendent Eddie Simpson said Tuesday afternoon, adding that the department used about 200 tons of salt earlier this week.

“There are a few slick spots still where trees hold the ice,” Simpson said. “You just can’t get it to melt, but we had the roads pretty clear by noon, and then we started working on secondary routes.

“We got a late start this morning because we weren’t expecting it,” Simpson added.

City of Loudon Public Works Director Bill Fagg said city streets began clearing by 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“The salt was not working good to start with until it started warming up,” Fagg said Tuesday afternoon.

The same story seemed to hold true in Lenoir City.

“We started off this morning plowing probably around 5:30 a.m., and then probably around 8 o’clock we started doing some salt work, and we have been plowing and salting ever since,” Lenoir City Street Superintendent J.J. Cox said, adding that roadways became slick earlier Tuesday morning after cars compacted the winter mix before road crews could clear the roadways. “It’s about 1:30 p.m. now, and I’d say we’ve got a good 90 percent of the roads clear right now.”

With the National Weather Service projecting another 2-4 inches of snow Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning, road crews geared up again throughout Tuesday for another round of winter weather.

“What I’m planing on doing I will probably be up early in the morning because I think it’s going to drop back down to 22, 24 degrees. I’ll be up early probably around 3 o’clock in the morning on them again kind of looking at it and see if I need to bring some crews in,” Cox said Tuesday. “I’m going to have the salt truck loaded for first thing in the morning.

“This one right here crept in on us, and I’m going to try to stay prepared and probably Wednesday morning get up early and check them out in case we have anything,” he added.

Electricity back on

Lenoir City Utilities Board customers were back on the electrical grid for the most part by late Thursday, and no LCUB customers lost power as a result of snowfall early this week.

LCUB General Manager Shannon Littleton said Tuesday that about 10,000 customers were without power throughout LCUB’s service area in Lenoir City and west Knox County during last week’s winter weather storm.

“We had a pretty significant outage yesterday on the Cedar Bluff substation in Knoxville,” Littleton said. “I think it was another tree-related issue, but outside of that we are aggressively cutting leaning trees and other issues that could potentially cause us problems as a result of this ice storm that just happened. Right now, we are holding our own. We are doing pretty well, but I don’t want to brag too quickly.”

City of Loudon Manager Lynn Mills reported that Loudon Utilities Board only had one outage affecting a couple households Tuesday morning on Get Good Hollow Road, and power was back on by about 8 a.m. Last week, LUB had an estimated 5,000-7,000 customers without power, he said.

Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative reported less than five outages.

No major calls

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Loudon County E-911 Center reported 51 incidents with only one involving a minor injury. Last week during Monday’s ice storm, dispatch answered 1,000 calls, with 688 calls coming between 3-11 p.m,, Director Jennifer Estes said. Of those calls, 284 incidents were reported. A typical Monday entails about 180 reported incidents, she said.

“We’ve had a few non-injury accidents that were weather related but nothing major today. I think because it hit during the night a lot of people stayed home,” Estes said. “So, it wasn’t too bad today. Now last week was a different story. Today hasn’t been that bad for us so far.”

A preliminary storm report from the National Weather Service in Morristown showed Lenoir City was hit with 2 inches of snow. Maryville and Alcoa were both hit with 3 inches, while Mascot, Tellico Plains, Athens and Sweetwater reported 2 inches. The southwest portion of Farragut was hit with nine-tenths of an inch. Snowfall accumulation in Kingston was reported at1 inch.

“You have some reports up around the Tri-Cities area of 4 inches,” Derek Eisentrout, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said. “Newfound Gap (N.C.) had 5.2 inches, and then you get some of the foothills areas where Maryville had 3 (inches).”

Eisentrout said another storm is projected to move in Wednesday evening through Thursday morning.

“And with spreading snowfall across the area, we’re still looking at total amounts for this afternoon’s forecast, but right now it looks like around 3 inches or so for Loudon County,” Eisentrout said.

Jeremy Buckles, local digital meteorologist, said a more concrete forecast could not be made until Tuesday evening, but snowfall accumulation could be anywhere from about 1-3 inches.

“The inverted surface trough that led to the snow last night, it’s actually a pretty common occurrence to happen across East Tennessee,” Buckles said. “We seem to get stuck with a lot of those during the winter and usually they, when they do occur, they leave light snow usually one or two inches in general. The difference last night that led to a little bit higher amounts is we might have had a little bit more moisture pulled in.”