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Update: Schools close as storm system to bring ice, snow to area

Jennifer Sprouse • Jan 25, 2013 at 5:56 AM

Update: Johnson City Schools announced early this morning that schools will be closed today, joining most other school systems in the region. Washington County, Unicoi County, Carter County, Sullivan County, Johnson County, Elizabethton, Kingsport and Bristol schools also are closed.

Classes at East Tennessee State University, Milligan College and Northeast State Community College are closed.


Just as the final dustings of last week’s snowfall are finally starting to wither down, the region is in another winter storm warning, which is predicted to bring rain and ice with it today and tonight.

“It looks like that the (precipitation) is going to start around 7 or 8 in the morning, mostly freezing rain with some sleet, maybe some snow mixed in,” said Jessica Winton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown. “That will continue for most of the morning into the afternoon and then it will transition to rain. It can be a little bit of freezing rain mixed in, mostly rain in the afternoon, and then it will continue until about 7 or 8 at night, and then it will move out of here.”

She said today’s high will hover around 33 degrees, but by nighttime, temperatures in the area will go down below freezing.

“There’s a low pressure system tracking north and the front that’s sweeping through, there’s a lot of arctic air behind it, so that’s what’s causing all of this,” Winton said. “The reason that there’s freezing rain is because there’s a deep (layer of) warm air in the atmosphere, meaning that anything that falls will melt into rain, but since the ground is still below freezing ... once it actually falls on the surface it freezes. Ice accumulations are actually looking to be a tenth of an inch to three tenths, or a quarter of an inch of ice.”

Winton said snow accumulation with today’s storm is only predicted to be a couple of tenths of an inch, but that the ice hanging on trees and power lines, as well as black ice on the roads, is a concern following the afternoon rain.

“The main concern after that is just the freezing temperatures and if there’s any water left anywhere, it’s going to freeze overnight,” Winton said. “Ice is the main threat.”

Area school systems, Washington and Carter counties, canceled its classes for today in anticipation of the storm.

In preparation of the potentially hazardous conditions, the Tennessee Department of Transportation began putting salt brine down on interstates and state routes throughout the region.

“Our maintenance crews have been working since ... last night and into this morning making a salt brine and have taken that and loaded up trucks with it and used that to pre-treat East Tennessee’s roadways,” said Mark Nagi, TDOT community relations officer. “By putting it on the roadways, it’s an anti-icing treatment and we’re able to use that to help limit the amount of ice that will be on the roads. We will then also have our salt trucks out and they will work on those roadways, those bridges, those overpasses ... whatever need be, but by having the road pre-treated that certainly will ... considerably knock down the amount of ice that would be on the roads.”

Nagi said crews will be on the road again early this morning to treat the roads starting around 3 a.m.

“We’ll have all of our TDOT maintenance folks working ... until the threat of winter weather has passed,” he said. “We’re as prepared as we can be.”

Mike Arsenault, assistant director of public works in Johnson City, said Thursday that city crews would begin salting the roads starting around 4-5 this morning.

He said while they are equipped to go out with salt brine, putting the treatment on the roads too early could run the risk of it being washed off by traffic.

Arsenault said 19 trucks and support personnel will be out working on the roads throughout the city today.

Nagi said for those traveling the roads, to make sure to give yourself and others braking room and to travel at slower speeds to avoid the possibility of an accident.

The Northeast Tennessee Office of the American Red Cross issued a news release Wednesday of winter storm safety tips.

In the release, Dawn Day, American Red Cross Emergency Services manager, said to “make sure you have emergency supplies for your entire household in case you end up having to remain in your home for a few days.”

Some of the recommended emergency items included:

- A three-day supply of water, one gallon per person per day.

- Non-perishable food.

- A first aid kit.

- Seven-day supply of medications and medical items.

- Supplies for babies and pets.

Other safety-related tips from the release included paying attention to the weather outside, bringing pets inside, move other animals and livestock to sheltered areas, stay inside if at all possible and to dress appropriately in layers of loose-fitting clothing when going outside.

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