Snow blanket fading away
by GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer and RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Feb 14, 2014 | 2088 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Banner photos, HOWARD PIERCE
BUILDING A SNOWMAN brought happiness and big smiles to Jada and Rae McCulloch.
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Perhaps another inch of snow, and maybe less, is possible tonight as temperatures drop below the freezing mark.

The thin coating of potential accumulation for some areas, which falls on the heels of Wednesday night’s heavy snowfall, could begin as a rainy mix and then change into snow.

According to the National Weather Service, rain is likely later today, and mainly after 4 p.m. Today’s high is expected to reach 49 with a south wind at 5 to 15 mph. The chance of precipitation is 40 percent.

The NWS outlook for tonight reads like this: “Rain before 3 a.m., then snow. Low around 30. South wind 5 to 15 mph becoming northwest after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.”

After facing the wrath of Old Man Winter Wednesday and Wednesday night, a typical response coming from any Southeast Tennesseean toward tonight’s “iffy” forecast of snow showers might be best described as “whatever.”

During a sunny, unusually warm day Thursday, Bradley County’s 9 inches of snow — maybe a little less, maybe a little more depending on the corner of the community — began a gradual melt that left carefully sculpted, bigger-than-life snowmen gasping for chillier temperatures and playful children frowning at the sudden thaw.

For the fourth consecutive day, most area schools were closed today, including the Cleveland and Bradley County School systems. Because of this winter’s use of snow days, Bradley County Schools cancelled a scheduled teachers’ in-service Tuesday to allow students to return to the classroom, according to the system’s website.

Both school systems will be closed Monday in observance of President’s Day, as previously scheduled in their calendars.

At a weather briefing Thursday hosted by the Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency, NWS forecasters cautioned local officials and area residents of the continuing possibility of black ice in the early morning hours for as long as snow accumulations, and piles of plowed snow, continue to melt during the day and then refreeze in the overnight hours. Temperatures dipped below the freezing mark Thursday night.

According to meteorologist David Hotz of the Morristown NWS office, 5 to 9 inches of snow blanketed most of Southeast Tennessee on Wednesday and Wednesday night. However, parts of the Smoky Mountains were submerged under as much as 16 inches of the white stuff. At last report, the storm was spreading northward to Maine and Nova Scotia — an unusual but predicted gift from the South.

Oddly enough, organizers of the Winter Olympics in an unseasonably warm Sochi, Russia, probably envied Bradley County for at least one night from a continent afar.

Wednesday night’s snowfall was described by many as “beautiful,” but all wasn’t rosy. During the height of the snowstorm, numerous power outages were reported to Volunteer Energy Cooperative and Cleveland Utilities.

Tim Henderson, CU vice president of Administrative Services, reported to emergency managers during the NWS webinar that 800 Cleveland Utilities customers were without power late Thursday morning and that crews were continuing to bring them back online.

“One thing we need to stress is our system alerts of outages and where we need to work,” Henderson stressed. “CU customers can call in and talk to our dispatcher; however, we will already be heading to the areas affected to make repairs without customers having to make notification. If someone does wish to call us, it could take a while before your call is answered by the dispatcher, due to the number of calls being taken.”

The technologically advanced system alerts crews and identifies the problem source and location so that corrective measures can be taken, Henderson explained.

In Charleston, a water main break was reported early Thursday morning. It affected areas of Market Street in the downtown and residential areas.

Calhoun-Charleston Utility District crews worked to repair the line.

Tennessee Department of Transportation crews continued to scrape the Interstate 75 system, and Bradley County Road Department and Cleveland Department of Public Works personnel cleared streets and roadways throughout the day Thursday.

High temperatures are expected to settle in the low 60s during the weekend and early next week.

Once tonight’s brief winter system comes and goes, weather-weary residents of Cleveland, Charleston and Bradley County — and the whole of Southeast Tennessee for that matter — will have finally escaped the clutches of Old Man Winter.

At least, for now.

But those who believe in the wisdom of Punxsutawney Phil will be the first to agree, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Any with short memories might recall. On Super Groundhog Day (Feb. 2, which was also Super Bowl Sunday), the sometimes misunderstood rodent and pride of Pennsylvania reportedly saw his shadow.

For worshippers of an early spring, that’s not a good sign.

Since 1993, most Cleveland and Bradley County residents have adopted a wait-and-see attitude regarding the refreshing change of season. When it comes to March, some may think “Madness,” but it’s not all about college basketball.

March 12-13, 1993, are two days that still live in snow-covered infamy around parts of the Deep South.

Hometown residents still love telling the story of the Blizzard of ’93, when Cleveland, Charleston and Bradley County got up-close and personal with 21 inches of snow and bone-chilling windchills.