Came Early A.M.,
Just As Predicted;
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
AND KEN LITTLE
Anyone trying to take a sidewalk to work this morning likely felt as though they might have had a better chance on skates than in their work shoes.
However, rubber tires didn't fare much better than those rubber soles, according to numerous accident reports from local law enforcement agencies.
Treacherous driving conditions prevailed on secondary roads.
"It's the [secondary] roads you have to worry about," sheriff's Sgt. Frank Waddell said.
Law enforcement agencies and emergency responders reported numerous accidents on county roads, most of them minor.
"We've had wrecks all over the county," a 911 Office dispatcher said about 9:30 a.m. today.
Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) officials urged motorists to stay off the roadways this morning in Greene and Jefferson counties, in particular, following reports of "extremely hazardous road conditions" on Interstate highways and state routes, said TDOT Community Relations Officer Mark Nagi.
"We're working a wreck in the Mohawk area, and we got a few medical calls. So far it's OK," said Robert Sayne, director of Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services (EMS) early today.
"Most people are staying home, and I think that's a good thing," he said.
Both the Greeneville City Schools and the Greene County School System announced Thursday evening that there would be no classes today.
Downtown Greeneville this morning resembled a ghost town covered in a thin sheet of ice.
Some businesses remained closed, or opened late, and the Greene County Courthouse was closed. The U.S. District Court in Greeneville was also closed.
The National Weather Service in Morristown issued an ice storm warning through 3:15 p.m. today and a freezing rain advisory through 7 p.m.
Ice accumulations were anticipated to be between one-tenth and one-fourth of an inch.
Bill Brown, county emergency management director, was also monitoring the developing weather situation this morning.
"They issued an ice storm warning through 7 p.m. Freezing rain is no longer in the (weather) report," Brown said.
The county Emergency Operations Center was up and running this morning. First responders and other officials were to gather for an update at 10 a.m. today.
"Travel is strongly discouraged," Brown said. "We're going to continue to monitor the situation, assess everything that's going on and act accordingly."
The warning cautioned of ice accumulations that forecasters expected would make travel "very hazardous or impossible," in addition to downing power lines and tree branches.
The Greeneville Light & Power System reported no problems as of 8:15 a.m. this morning, but General Manager Bill Carroll said he placed contractors on standby.
The icy storm resulted from a low pressure system that blanketed the region with frozen precipitation, the NWS warning explained. Temperatures were expected to rise above freezing in the afternoon, with precipitation turning to rain for a time.
By late today, however, those temperatures may drop yet again, re-freezing wet areas and creating newly-hazardous driving conditions.
"If you don't have to be out, don't be out," Greene County Road Superintendent David Weems urged this morning.
Accidents, he said, can block roadways and prevent crews from getting salt onto icy streets.
The Greene County Highway Department began salting around 6:30 a.m. today, at the first sign of moisture, he said.
"If it keeps freezing and raining, I feel sure we'll have to go back over those main roads again, maybe up toward lunch or something," he added.
Greeneville's Public Works department began salting about 6 a.m., according to Supervisor William Barner.
Trucks were still out around 8:30 a.m. but the roadways remained treacherous, he said.
TDOT pre-treated the roads yesterday and started again today around 4 a.m., Nagi noted. Workers will continue to treat roadways throughout the day.
How bad was it?
Mike Seidel, the Weather Channel meteorologist known for popping up in the worst of weather conditions, was in Knoxville this morning doing a live broadcast from the Cedar Bluff Exit off I-40, according to viewer reports.
ONE MOTORIST'S WOES
"It's probably the slickest ice I've seen in the 25 years I've lived in Greeneville," said Steve Harbison, general manager of The Greeneville Sun, after his vehicle crashed into some dogwood trees on Valiant Drive at approximately 7:45 a.m.
Harbison, who was not injured, was on his way to work when his vehicle slid on the street while going down a steep hill.
"The flat street in front of our house was fine, but the big hill in our neighborhood was a solid sheet of black ice," Harbison said.
He said his vehicle began picking up momentum as it was sliding down the hill, and he looked for somewhere to grab some traction and stop.
Like many others, Harbison tried to call a wrecker service to move his vehicle, "but they were just swamped with calls" from other people who also became stuck.
"If you don't have to get out," Harbison said, "I'd advise everybody to stay put."