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Carter, Elizabethton crews work to clear roads

John Thompson • Jan 18, 2018 at 11:10 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Carter County presented a wintry appearance on Wednesday, with snow levels of three or four inches covering the lower elevations and side roads remaining icy by midday.

Schools were out on Wednesday and both city and county highway crews were busy, but Carter County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Smith said there were no emergencies except for a few minor crashes. Ken Markland, Elizabethton Electric Department’s marketing and industrial services coordinator, said there were no extensive outages.

Although the county has had plenty of experience with subfreezing temperatures this winter, snow has been largely a stranger until Tuesday night, and even when it was finally scheduled to arrive, it seemed to dally and delay, arriving several hours after the schedule announced by the National Weather Service.

And it turns out that snow is making just a short visit.

Temperatures are expected to climb above freezing today, fall back into the teens tonight, but reach 48 on Friday, with a low of only 26. The high temperatures are expected to reach the 50s during the weekend, with lows staying above freezing.

The biggest impact of the snow was on the roads.

All roads in the county were open and the main streets and highways were clear but wet. With temperatures going no higher than the low 20s on Wednesday, road crews were unable to clear many side roads.

The Carter County Highway Department worked into the night to get the county’s roads cleared, especially in the higher elevations.

That work came after the crews waited several hours on Tuesday for the snow to arrive. Their vehicles were fully loaded with chat and salt and their blades were in position, but the operators had to wait as temperatures hovered around 45 degrees without a snow cloud in sight all afternoon on Tuesday.

Once the snow began falling, Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said the crews worked until after dark on Tuesday and then returned to work at 4 a.m., including operating wide-body dump trucks on narrow, curvy mountain roads in the darkness with falling snow limiting visibility to only a few feet.

Elizabethton City Manager Jerome Kitchens said the city street crews were plowing the snow off the streets all night on Tuesday and were at it all day on Wednesday, but some of the side streets were still icy.

Kitchens said Thursday’s warmer temperatures and plentiful sunshine “will help a whole lot, there is no doubt about that.”

One of the city’s hard workers during every snowstorm is Danny Hilbert, the director of the Street and Sanitation Department. He is keeping tabs on the progress of the current effort but is not out in the thick of it because he broke his leg a couple of weeks ago.

Kitchens said Hilbert hopes to be back at work in March.

City and county schools were all impacted by the slower-than-expected arrival of the snow. Elizabethton City Schools were out both Tuesday and Wednesday. Carter County School went Tuesday morning but dismissed at 11 a.m.

The closures of both schools was made on the expected arrival time of the snow from the west. Elizabethton City Director of Schools Corey Gardenhour said the decision to close Elizabethton schools was made after receiving an estimate the snow would arrive about 10:30.

The Elizabethton Board of Education had been scheduled to meet Tuesday night, but the session was rescheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Mack Pierce Board Room at the Central Office.

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