By Jill Penley
The first taste of wintry weather this season has caused headaches across the entire south and especially western North Carolina and east Tennessee including Johnson County.
The large snowstorm was accurately predicted, but that did not make it any easier for the hundreds of workers who were faced with keeping roads passable and area homes with electricity.
Road crews from the Johnson County Highway Department worked all day clearing ice and snow from the county’s roads on Sunday.
Road Superintendent Jeff Wagner said that as much as a foot of snow covered the roads at higher elevations, which was no news for local residents.
Barely over a month after being named interim Road Superintendent by the Johnson County Board of Commissioners to fill the position previously held by the late Darrell Reece, Wagner faced the situation head-on orchestrating the county’s 20 trucks, most donned with chains, to the areas of the county hardest hit. Wagner could not be reached for comment Monday as he was personally out plowing roadways, as many remain covered in packed snow and may be icy, so motorists should drive slow and use extra caution.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) offers some tips when it comes to winter driving and snow plows including avoid crowding plow vehicles. Snowplows plow far and wide and the front plow extends several feet in front of the truck and may cross the centerline and shoulders during plowing operations. Drivers should never tailgate or stop too close behind snowplows.
Driving in the mountains during winter calls for patience and diligence. TDOT suggests reducing speed in wet, snowy, or icy conditions; when visibility is poor; or when conditions are changing or unpredictable; no matter what type of vehicle you drive.
As expected when a heavy wet snow begins to accumulate, sporadic power outages were reported throughout the day on Sunday and Monday as Mountain Electric crews were dispatched to outages in Johnson County mostly around Watauga Lake in sections of Butler, Poga, Sink Valley, and Dry Hill.
The National Weather Service calls winter storms “deceptive killers” because most deaths are not directly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from lengthy exposure to cold.
For more information, visit www.weather.gov/safety/winter or www.tn.gov/tdot.