BY TOM YANCEY
Snow and below-freezing temperatures that were expected to continue closed Greene County Schools today and later caused Greeneville City Schools to close after they first announced only a delayed opening.
Motorists were urged to slow down and use caution.
County School Director Dr. Vicki Kirk said when she arrived at the schools office at 5 a.m. she called the Greene County Sheriff's Department and was told that the south end of the county and the Camp Creek area were "pretty slick" and a bad accident had already occurred because of poor road conditions.
Dr. Kirk said transportation supervisor Clark Justis told her the north end of the county did not get much snow, but the West Greene area "was iffy." A bus driver went to check on the Cedar Creek area, she said, and was not sure she could get home.
With more snow falling and the temperature not expected to rise above 28 degrees, Kirk said, she decided to close the county schools. She said she would try to make a decision this afternoon about Tuesday's schedule.
Beverly Miller, Greeneville Schools' chief technology officer, said the decision to delay opening the town's schools for two hours was made at 6:05 a.m.
At that time, roads in the city were snow-covered "but did not appear to be terribly slick," she said, but as snow continued to fall and began to pack, the decision to close Greeneville' public schools for the day was made at 7:30 a.m.
"The safety of our students and employees is our foremost concern," Miller said, in deciding whether to close schools.
At 10 a.m., she said, it looked as if schools could have opened safely with a two-hour delay, but it was impossible to know that ahead of time.
Miller said that although school buses do not pick up children until later, they "begin to roll" at 6:20 a.m.
She said some streets began to get slippery at about 7 a.m. This reporter noted that Church Street downtown was packed with snow and shiny at 6:45 a.m.
6 VEHICLES IN DITCH
County Sheriff's Department Dispatcher Chuck Humphreys said that at about 6 a.m. six vehicles had slid into the ditchline on a hill aproaching the Asheville Highway on West Allens Bridge Road, in addition to the accident off the Warrensburg Road (Please see related article on Page A-1.)
Humphrey said the east end of the county along U.S. Highway 11E and Chuckey Pike "didn't appear to be too bad," but on the south side, on the Newport Highway, Warrensburg Road, and a band from McDonald to Camp Creek, roads were "snow-covered and slick in spots."
One car was in the ditch on Billy Bible Road near McDonald in addition to those on West Allens Bridge Road.
Greene County Road Superintendent David Weems said slick conditions seemed to be "scattered out," and he had crews working on steep Smith Mill Road in the northern end of the county, in addition to the areas already mentioned.
Weems said county crews were spreading salt mixed with fine-gravel "chat" to provide some traction, since not much melting was expected unless sun broke through.
Weems urged motorists on county roads to slow down and use caution, even if roads were clear, because many slick spots were noted at intersections and curves, and on hills.
Jeff Hayes, a spokesman for Greeneville Public Works Department, urged motorists to be watchful and drive carefully.
He said the Greeneville has a list of "hot spots" where slick conditions typically occur, mostly on hills.
He said the Greeneville Water Commission also asked for salt to be the spread on Bandy Road, where a water line break before 4 a.m. caused freezing on the road surface.
He said slick conditions caused salt to be spread in a number of locations, including Crescent Street, Vann Road, and Whirlwind Road.
All Greeneville Middle School games scheduled for today have been canceled.
Tusculum View Elementary School's "Holiday of Hope" Christmas program, scheduled for tonight at the NPAC, has been canceled, and may be rescheduled at a later date.
All Greene County School System games scheduled for tonight have been canceled.