Snow puts on quite a show

Wednesday, February 3, 2010
With a dog named River running along, Landen Parker, in front on the sled, and Gavin Ford enjoy the combination of gravity and a slick surface.

The five inches of snow that started falling here Friday closed schools, cost road budgets overtime, delayed some mail, caused many wrecks, worried folks, but entertained kids and the young at heart.

And yet, the snow could have been deeper if it weren't for Tennessee's winter bugaboo - ice, according to veteran meteorologist Bobby Boyd of the National Weather Service who said, "We lost some of the depth because of the sleet and freezing rain.

"A lot of sleet on top of the snow and freezing rain compacted the snow even more," Boyd said of an icecap that supported the weight of an adult.

Lewisburg Police Communications Supervisor Alissa Kruger said snow falling sooner than expected caught people at work and then out on the roads. Folks thought they had more time before the snow started to fall.

Roads were "extremely slick, especially by Wal-Mart," so motorists driving up the hill toward the bridge over railroad tracks were involved in "multiple wrecks there."

Then Kirby Brown's vehicle slid on ice near Kantus. She couldn't stop and hit the driver's side of Police Sgt. Barry Hargrove's patrol car. As the Tennessee Highway Patrol was called in to investigate, Sgt. Anthony McLean reported in early to pick up the slack.

At Fresenius Dialysis Clinic just east of North Ellington Parkway, Farmington Volunteer Firefighter Neil Metcalf of Milltown helped B. W. Clift, 87, of Cornersville into Metcalf's pickup truck to drive Clift home after dialysis treatment.

Marshall County Emergency Management Agency Director "Bob Hopkins sent me over here," Metcalf said.

He was one of several volunteers driving area residents to places when they couldn't drive themselves in the snow.

Donald Davis lives near the National Guard Armory, but is originally from Michigan where he drove "in this stuff for 47 years, so I'm competent," he said. Friday, he'd just finished his dialysis treatment.

"A lot of people are upset about this snow," Davis said. "I wanted to see about a foot... It's been 20 years since I've driven in something like that."

Dialysis can leave a patient feeling weak, he said. Sometimes there's a quick feeling of renewal. Regardless, dialysis - the cleansing of blood for people who have kidney failure - takes several hours and therefore raises questions about timing when snow starts falling.

Fresenius charge nurse Heather Shively said dialysis takes three to five hours. Reasons for dialysis include diabetes and/or hypertension, affecting kidneys and causing malfunctions.

Shively worked all of the shifts on Friday and said if her patients didn't get treatment Friday or Saturday, they might be in the hospital by Monday. That might result if they don't follow food restrictions,

Less than half a dozen of nearly two dozen dialysis patients delayed or finished early, Shively said.

Marshall County Emergency Medical Services Director James Whorley reported no deaths or injuries due to the weather, but police dispatcher Glenn Liggett's calm voice belied concerns for youngsters sledding on slick streets.

"You can't blame the kids," Police Chief Chuck Forbis said, "but they do need to be careful."

In the midst of it all there was a domestic call for officers to the parking lot of a beauty parlor near a grocery at about 1:45 p.m., according to dispatchers. A woman ran into the salon and a man punched her car, according to early reports about the time Interstate 24 was being closed at "The Rock" in Grundy County.

"It was supposed to be rain this morning and then ice and snow," Forbis noted, "but it's only been snow" that compacted and made streets slick.

As for the prediction on when snow would fall, the National Weather Service acknowledged other forecasters' work.

"It depended on who you listened to," Boyd said. "They were giving different starting times."

Monday last week, the federal forecasters thought it would arrive Thursday night, "then we kept pushing it back and I believe noon (Friday) was what we eventually said," Boyd recalled.

Nearby, the veteran weatherman said: Nashville had about four inches; southern Giles County got much less at 1.5 inches.

The last time anything like this fell was on Jan. 16, 2003, Boyd said. "So, it's been seven years since we've had anything like this. Prior to that ... back on March 19, 1996, we had a snow storm that produced 8.7 inches," and that wasn't the snow dubbed the "storm of the century" which was in 1993 when snow several inches accumulated in Middle Tennessee, but Chattanooga and Cookeville got 21 inches and "They closed I-40."

As for snow here late last week, Lewisburg Interim Post Master Fran Zeller said, "Yeah we've had some of that today."

All her letter carriers returned safely Friday evening and she predicted uninterrupted service Saturday, but there were challenges.

One letter carrier's vehicle "went over a railroad tie" that serves as a garden border, Zeller said. "You couldn't see the landscaping. People were mad...

"But we had only 151 deliveries that we weren't able to complete because we couldn't get to their mailboxes because the roads were so bad," she said.

That's out of 8,876 delivery points, or 1.7 percent of the mailboxes.

"One route is on back country roads." Zeller said of one mailman's challenge. "After he got in the ditch four times, he gave up on the rest of that part of that route because he could not get through" that road described as "toward Belfast way, coming back in...

"And a lot of people have their mail boxes back from the road, so when you try to get close to the box, there's a drop off of six to eight inches off the road.

"They came back with raw nerves," Zeller said of the letter carriers. Some got stuck and Lewisburg residents pushed them out. One letter carrier thinks she may have transmission trouble now.

Lewisburg City Manager Eddie Fuller said, "The snow is not the problem. It's the ice. We've had people out since Friday morning scraping and putting salt out. The salt doesn't do any good until you have sunshine. We're really not set up for snow. We have a couple trucks with salt spreaders."

Marshall County Roads Superintendent Jerry Williams "put in about 80 hours last week" or 35 more than his usual 45, he said.

All told his department is filing 484 overtime hours for work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday because those 18 employees normally work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday.

They: cleared the inner loop parking around the courthouse; had two road graders out on 200 miles of road; and used 80 tons of salt, and 50 tons of calcium mixed with sand "that's supposed to work longer" than salt, Williams said.

"We had a lot of trees and limbs we'll have to go back and get. It'll probably take the rest of the week to finish," he said. "It could have been a disaster if we had another inch of ice. It would have been worse if we hadn't been cutting trees for the past 7-1/2 years."

Boyd said Lewisburg's five-inch snow was reported by a law enforcement officer.

"There was one measurement of seven inches in Crieve Hall in south Davidson County, and Spring Hill had four inches," Boyd said.

The National Weather Service meteorologist said temperatures in the mid-40s early this week could melt ice, but motorists should be careful because nighttime temperatures will dip below freezing, thereby renewing the highway threat in the morning.

As for more snow, Boyd said "We've got another system later this week that we were looking at Saturday night.

"A high pressure system through the middle of the week will control the weather but there is another system that will be approaching from the western coast of Mexico," he said. "We'll be on the northern fringes of that.

"It looks like to me that's going to be rain, but it could be mixed with sleet and snow," Boyd said Saturday night.

On Thursday, Friday or Saturday, the area might get cold again with a wintry mix of snow and sleet.

"It does look like the winter season is still with us," Boyd said.