Sunday, December 20, 2009

JC Press Winter Storm Article

Date: Dec 20, 2009; Section: Section A Front; Page: 1A

Digging out
• Region reeling from major storm.
Press Staff Writer

A widespread winter storm that swept through the region Friday left more than 2,000 people without power for much of the weekend, according to Johnson City Power Board Chief Public Relations Officer Robert White. As the storm began spreading heavy snowfall throughout the city Friday afternoon, White said reports of power outages across the system began to trickle in around 5 p.m. Friday. “We spent most of (Friday) evening and early (Saturday) morning taking care of the breaker operations on the substation levels,” he said. As of 6:30 p.m. Saturday, approximately 2,500 of those customers were still without power, including customers in Colonial Heights and Piney Flats.

White said most of the power should be restored today, but it would likely be Monday before power was restored to the entire system. As temperatures began dropping Saturday night, White urged those still without power to begin seeking shelter. Tri-Cities Baptist Church in Gray served as a shelter to those in the Fall Branch community who were without power and seeking a place to stay warm overnight.

The JCPB worked around the clock Friday and Saturday to ensure power was being restored as quickly as possible. White said the Power Board brought in contract crews from Knoxville to assist in getting power restored to the area. “We’re working hard. Not only with crews outside, but our call center is open 24 hours to take calls of outages and assure customers that we’re working on getting power restored,” White said. Customers still experiencing power outages were asked to call the JCPB at 282-5272. People could also follow power outage updates on the JCPB’s Twitter account at

White said when dealing with power outages caused by snow, the heavy, wet flakes the area received Friday are some of the worst kind to deal with. The weight from the snow makes it easier for lines to be knocked down by trees. “That is a formula for disaster when looking at an electric infrastructure,” he said. White asked customers without power to make sure to unplug any major appliances, such as HVAC units and washing machines, to avoid circuit overloading if and when power is restored.

While Friday’s snow storm isn’t anywhere near as hazardous as the blizzard the area experienced in 1998, White said this storm system was definitely a problem for some areas. Appalachian Power, which covers Hawkins and Sullivan counties and pieces of Washington County, experienced a widespread power outage that left 135,000 without power early Saturday morning. By early Saturday afternoon, the outages topped 200,000. According to an update on Appalachian Power’s Web site, at 5 p.m. Saturday, nearly 20,000 customers remained without power,including300inWashington County.

While road conditions throughout the region were considered dangerous Friday night and early Saturday, by Saturday night the main city roads, including Interstate 26, of Washington County were fairly clear. Back roads were still considered hazardous, according to dispatchers with Washington County 911. As the night progressed and temperatures dropped, black ice was said to be a possibility across the region. Dispatchers with Carter County 911 said main roads are also fairly clear, however, reports of slick roads grew common as temperatures dropped.

Officers with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department said higher elevations began getting covered with snow again late Saturday, while main city roads remained clear. A large number of cars were abandoned on the side of many roads across the county due to the inclement weather brought by Friday’s storm. The strong winter storm that swept through this weekend left about 4 to 6 inches on the ground in Johnson City, according to the National Weather Service in Morristown. NWS representative Lyle Wilson said it’s possible that an additional 2 inches could fall overnight, but that the area has already seen “the worst of it.” “We’re not looking at anything real major from now on,” he said. Wilson said another system may move through the region beginning Wednesday night, mainly bringing rain showers. Wilson said a chance of snow showers is possible.

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