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Cold waves to put region in deep freeze

Jennifer Sprouse • Jan 2, 2014 at 9:47 PM

Residents around the Tri-Cities might want to start adding a couple extra layers of clothing to their winter weather attire for several days, as lows early next week are predicted to drop to single digits.

Thursday morning’s commute in the Gray and Kingsport areas proved a bit treacherous as black ice blanketed roads. Dozens of traffic crashes related to the slick roads were reported to authorities, which including accidents on Old Gray Station Road, Interstate 26 near mile marker 11, Sulphur Springs Road, Tenn. Highway 93 near the Sullivan County line and Tenn. Highway 81 North near Leesburg Road.

Old Gray Station Road was reopened around 9:40 a.m., after being closed for much of the morning.

On Thursday, the Johnson City Police Department reported freezing rain on North Roan Street, multiple crashes in the north end of the city and Washington County, as well as many on I-26.

According to the NET News Service, around 9 a.m. Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office reported more than 40 crashes in their area, as more than a dozen vehicles slid off U.S. Highway 11W between Kingsport and Bristol.

Accidents due to icy patches were reported between Crown Colony and Arcadia Drive in Kingsport, between Johnson’s Chapel Road and Deck Valley Road just outside of Bristol.

A multi-vehicle wreck also closed Orebank Road at East Stone Drive, according to NET News Service.

Road closures were also reported near the upper end of U.S. 11W near Bristol, as well as a section of Tenn. Highway 394 from Interstate 81’s exit 69 to U.S. 11W.

Meteorologist Andrew Pritchett with the National Weather Service in Morristown said Thursday’s precipitation and cold temperatures that iced many roadways throughout the region marked the beginning of one of two storm systems making its way through the area.

Pritchett said Thursday the area was expected to see some light to moderate snow fall later that night, with accumulations around 1 to 2 inches. He said places around the higher terrain were predicted to see possibly 3 to 4 inches, which included Unicoi County.

On Thursday night snow fell around the region, as Johnson City and Washington County emergency communications dispatchers reported a couple of downed trees that were blown down by strong winds. Around 9 p.m. Jonesborough Department of Public Safety said no accidents had been reported, but said all roads were beginning to become snow covered.

In Carter, Greene and Johnson counties there were reports of snow, but no accidents had been reported.

Unicoi County dispatchers said around 8:15 p.m. Thursday that the main and backroads in the county were snow covered and slick, but said no accidents had been reported.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol said reports of slick spots on roads had been coming in for Carter County, Roan Mountain, U.S. 11W and 11E and Tenn. 394.

Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation community relations officer, said Thursday that road crews were dispersed on their routes, either treating roads or were standing by to treat them if needed.

“We’ve got brine trucks out and salt trucks and they’ll put those supplies down on the roadways as necessary,” Nagi said. “We’ll continue to monitor the weather reports and will make whatever moves we have to accordingly.”

He said while it was recommended people stay off the roads if possibly, for those who have to be out in the winter weather to use extra caution and beware of patches of black ice.

As they do anytime the temperature dips below freezing, Johnson City’s two emergency shelters are prepared to double up through the wintry blast and encouraged anyone who is sleeping outdoors to come inside.

The Salvation Army’s white flag that signals a dangerous weather outlook and an open door policy at its Center of Hope shelter for men, women and children was flying Thursday afternoon just outside the shelter at 203 Ash St. At the Haven of Mercy shelter for men at 123 E. Millard St., the official word from the check-in desk in advance of Thursday night and today’s cold was “Our doors are open. No one will be turned away.”

Today, Pritchett said snow on the ground, as well as black ice are likely, and said temperatures will remain below freezing. He said that the cold temperatures will be sticking around awhile, though, as the second winter storm system moves into the region.

“It’s going to bring another shot of winter weather,” Pritchett said. “It’ll be could enough for snow as well. It’s still kind of in the preliminary stages of evaluating how much snow we could get, but it certainly looks like we could see a period of ... some snow and temperatures in place to support snow for a bit of time. It looks like we could have low temperatures certainly within the single digits, but even close to zero up in the Tri-Cities area. That’s just due to that arctic air ... that’s moving in and that’ll push winds certainly below zero as well.”

According to the NWS website, today’s high is expected to be around 23 degrees, with wind chills hovering around minus 1 and 9 degrees. A 10 percent chance of snow is also predicted. Tonight is forecast to be around 13 degrees.

Saturday’s high is predicted to be around 46 degrees, while Saturday night’s temperatures should dip to around 26 degrees.

The high Sunday will also be around 46 degrees, with a chance of rain and snow showers before 1 p.m. and then just rain showers between 1 and 4 p.m.

According to the NWS, Sunday night’s low will hover around 26 degrees, as the second storm system makes its way to the region.

“Sunday night into Monday is when we would experience any snow fall and then that ... rush of arctic air moves in behind that and that’s when we could experience those really cold temperatures Monday night and Tuesday morning,” Pritchett said.

Monday’s high is forecast to be around 23 degrees with a 40 percent chance of snow showers, while Monday night will see lows around 4 degrees and a 30 percent chance snow showers.

According to the NWS website, Tuesday’s high is predicted to be around 18 degrees, with a low of around 9 degrees Tuesday night.

“It’s going to be really cold Tuesday morning and then it looks like ... a moderate improvement over time,” Pritchett said. “By Wednesday morning it’s still going to be really cold for our area. Instead of 3 or 4 degrees, it could be around 10 degrees. These temperatures are not something we experience too frequently, so (we) definitely want to raise awareness and get people to realize that it is going to get cold.”

He said while it’s advised to stay indoors during the harsh weather, those traveling should take extreme caution while driving and prepare an emergency kit with items such as blankets, a flashlight and batteries, first-aid kit, extra clothing and a tool kit.

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