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Icy conditions keep area roads slick throughout day

Jennifer Sprouse • Jan 25, 2013 at 7:39 PM

As promised, a wintry mix of rain, snow and freezing rain moved into the area early Friday morning, prompting somewhat of shutdown of operation in the region.

With a predicted regional high of 33 degrees Friday, Mary Black, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, said that temperatures stayed mostly below freezing, causing slick conditions and icy slush on roads.

Black said overall precipitation for the area was less than two-tenths inch, but because the ground level temperatures were already at the freezing mark, any rain, sleet or freezing rain mixture froze.

“We’ve had warm air higher up with the really cold air down by the surface here and when the low pressure moved in and it brought in the precipitation, any snow that fell, fell through that warm layer and melted it,” she said. “Then as it got back … a little further down to the surface where it was freezing, as soon as it would hit a frozen surface it would freeze.”

As the precipitation started to slow around 4 p.m., she said Friday that only light freezing drizzle and freezing fog would linger into Friday night and early this morning.

“Probably through the morning commute, I would expect to see areas of black ice on roads. Any road that wasn’t treated … over the past 24 hours will probably have some icy spots on it as well, so the roads will continue to be treacherous throughout the early morning hours. As we get to the afternoon, temperatures should be climbing up above freezing,” Black said.

As a state of emergency was issued Friday as a precautionary measure due to the impending ice, Tennessee Emergency Management spokesman Jeremy Heidt said multiple ice-related wrecks were reported in East Tennessee and that state officials were working with Kentucky officials to help prevent motorists from going into parts of Tennessee that were congested from earlier wrecks.

In Johnson City, vehicles were reportedly sliding off roads in the morning, with generally slick conditions throughout the city, according to 911 dispatchers at the Washington County Communications District.

According to the Washington County/Johnson City 911 website, six crashes occurred by 9 a.m. from Intestate 26 to State of Franklin Road and Old Gray Station Road.

Three of those crashes alone were along State of Franklin, and emergency radio traffic indicated that area was very slick.

The driver of Ford truck was taken to Johnson City Medical Center Friday morning after the vehicle apparently slid on an icy section of Broadway Street, flipped over and landed on its top in a wooded area next to the road.

According to the Jonesborough Police Department, no wrecks were reported and things remained quiet throughout the town, despite icy conditions throughout the day.

Greene County dispatchers reported some sliding vehicles on the roads around 2 p.m. Friday, but no accidents were reported.

According to a Tennessee Highway Patrol dispatcher in Fall Branch, wrecks were reported in several counties and icy conditions had been reported on Sams Gap on I-26. By 4 p.m. around five vehicle wrecks had been reported, but troopers were still working accidents throughout the region.

Tennessee Department of Transportation crews were out Friday salting roads throughout the region to help melt the ice.

School systems — city and county — throughout the area closed, including East Tennessee State University, Milligan College and Northeast State Community College.

People who did venture outside Friday spent a good portion of their morning warming up their vehicles and scraping their windows and windshields.

Austin Wolfe was one of many hacking away at his own vehicle Friday.

“I just woke up, and I’m trying to get to the other side of town. Ice is the worst. Snow is bad, but ice is the worst.”

The Washington County Courthouse also was closed Friday.

Around 5:30 p.m. Friday, Robert White, chief public relations office with the Johnson City Power Board, said that operations were running smoothly.

“So far we’re not having any problems. We don’t have any major outages,” White said. “If we have any, it’s probably just the normal one or two … just a few here and there based on just regular everyday situations. We haven’t had any problems so far because of the weather.”

He said that because of the precipitation on trees and power lines JCPB workers were prepared to take care of any customers experiencing a power outage.

“We always have crews that are available at any moment’s notice and we’ll make sure that if we have any outages we’ll address them immediately,” White said.

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