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Local residents heeded warning to stay off roads

Jennifer Sprouse • Jan 26, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Northeast Tennesseans seemed to heed the warning of icy conditions predicted for Friday, which may have kept the number of wrecks and accidents with injuries down from what could have potentially been a problem for Tri-Cities area residents.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Fall Branch office Saturday, troopers responded to 41 crashes in which they took accident reports, but they mostly responded to vehicle assistance calls, helping motorists retrieve their cars that slid off roads, as well as two tractor-trailer accidents in which they jack-knifed. Some minor injuries were reported, including one entrapment on Tenn. Highway 36, but no major injuries.

Dispatchers in Johnson City/Washington County said Friday’s storm didn’t prompt too many accidents in the city, and said that while they did have accidents in the morning, the calls came in clusters and there were no major accidents and no injuries were reported.

Around 18 accidents without injuries occurred in the city, which included fender benders in parking lots and sliding vehicles on icy roads.

No weather-related wrecks were reported in Jonesborough or Greene County.

Dispatchers in Elizabethton and Carter and Johnson counties said they did not have too many wrecks, but did note they did have vehicles sliding off the slick roads.

Unicoi County dispatchers said they had a total of four or five wrecks Friday, and the low number was a result of people staying home and off the roads.

But, despite the low number of wrecks, there were accidents on the ice.

Dr. Garik Misenar, medical director of the emergency department at Johnson City Medical Center, said Saturday afternoon that the hospital treated several people who were brought in by ambulance Friday with injuries due in large part to the ice near their own homes.

“We actually saw several people who had slipped on the ice. There were significantly more hip fractures,” Misenar said. “It was more during the morning, early afternoon. That’s when it really seemed to be a problem. People (were) leaving the house and not realizing that their steps or their driveway or their sidewalk was going to be ... slick. All the ones (patients) that I saw yesterday actually slipped at home.”

He said other injuries related to falling on ice included shoulder fractures, wrist fractures and even a few concussions.

Even though possible power outages were a concern with ice forming on power lines and trees through the area, Robert White, chief public relations officer with Johnson City Power Board, said the utility didn’t have any weather-related power problems Friday.

“We didn’t have any kind of breaker operation in the substations and we got through it really well,” White said. “Of course, we’re always prepared to get power restored around the clock because of the nature of having crews available, but we just didn’t have anything major (Friday) evening that was going to warrant any additional personnel at all.”

He said he observed some ice on power lines while driving around Saturday, but said he felt as though the infrastructure would continue to be OK, as they made it through the most difficult part of the storm Friday evening.

Jessica Winton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, said they received calls and widespread reports of icing and impassable roads, major roads with open icy spots and even a trace of snowfall in the region.

She said overall, the area received 0.36 inch of precipitation, which included the freezing rain that was visible throughout the morning to afternoon.

“A low moved north of us and the front that was coming through ... it was cold at the surface and then warm a little bit higher up in the atmosphere, so everything that was falling was melting rain,” Winton said.

A couple of batches of wintry slush hit the region through the first half of the afternoon, moving out between 4-5 p.m.

“There was still drizzle and light rain, and little scattered showers, but other than that the main line ... already moved out,” she said.

Winton said while temperatures Friday did dip below freezing, it didn’t drop as low as they had originally predicted. The high Friday was around 33 degrees, with a low of 20 degrees.

On Saturday, the clouds were clearing out of the area, as the region saw a high of 41 degrees and a bit of sunshine during the day.

Winton said today the high will be around 54 degrees and by tonight on into Monday a chance of rain is predicted. By Tuesday, temperatures are expected to be around 65 degrees with a chance of showers.

On Wednesday, a chance of thunderstorms is forecast. Winton said the high Wednesday will be around 58 degrees.

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