Work crews spend day clearing roads in Carter, Unicoi counties

John Thompson • Jan 25, 2013 at 7:10 PM

ELIZABETHTON — “We are froze up everywhere,” Carter County Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins said Friday as his crews worked late in the day to clear ice from the roads.

With temperatures remaining below freezing and with bands of sleet continuing to fall in sections of the county, Perkins and his crews were not receiving any natural help.

“It is all over the county,” Perkins said. “Some of the worst problems have been in the lower end of the county.

Some of the good things Perkins could report is that he is still has a good stockpile of salt and chat. He said he has not had any equipment breakdowns.

Sheriff Chris Mathes said his patrols have been able to get through and no call has gone unanswered. He said the department’s four-wheel drive vehicles are being used.

Mathes was in Nashville attending a sheriff’s association meeting and drove back through the ice storm. He said it was mainly him and the trucks on the interstate.

Interim City Manager Jerome Kitchens said there have been no major problems in Elizabethton.

He said Street Department Director Danny Hilbert and his crews have been salting the streets. Despite their efforts, Police Chief Greg Workman reported there were several accidents caused by the icy conditions. Kitchens said they were mostly fender benders and no injuries had been reported.

“I haven’t heard from the electric department, so that is a good thing,” Kitchens said. “My concern is ice getting on the lines and knocking them down.”

The Electric Department reported only one problem during the day. A tree in Hampton fell on the lines, knocking out power to about six customers.

Road conditions were improving in Johnson County later in the afternoon. The roads were icy early in the day The temperatures began to rise above freezing during the afternoon and crews were able to push the sleet and ice off the roads.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said Friday afternoon that slick conditions existed on all of the county’s roads. He said low temperatures Friday evening could result in the treacherous conditions being present today.

Hensley said the main message he wanted to get out is that county residents should remain at home and off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

“As long as the temperatures are below freezing, we’re going to have problems,” Hensley said.

Tennessee declared a state of emergency on Friday due to the ice storm, which Hensley said would provide stricken areas with resources typically unavailable. Until then, he said local crews were working to keep county roads as clear as possible.

“Right now, the crews are out salting, but the precipitation that’s falling, as soon as it hits, it’s freezing,” he said. “We’ve got ice accumulating on trees, we’ve got ice accumulating on power lines.”

Despite this, Hensley said there were no problems with power outages as of Friday afternoon. However, he said icy conditions led to several accidents throughout the county. These accidents included a serious accident on Interstate 26 near Exit 40, in which the driver had to be transported to Johnson City Medical Center, and the overturning of a county salt truck in the Limestone Cove area. Hensley said both of the workers in the salt truck were transported to the hospital for treatment.

“I did get an update on them that they’re just bruised up, scraped up, no broken bones, which that’s great,” he said. “It just goes to show you ... we have to be real careful on this ice.”

Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks contributed to this story.

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