Local road crews ready for snow

Stephen Igo • Jan 19, 2016 at 1:12 PM

WISE -- There have been a few minor skirmishes but the first true battle of the season for Virginia Department of Transportation maintenance crews and VDOT contractors could take place Wednesday.

Forecasts are for snow accumulations anywhere from one to four inches, with the higher elevations across Southwest Virginia, as usual, the wild card. Not much of a storm as winter storms go but enough, most likely, to give VDOT's Wise Residency four county roads battalion its first real test of the season.

Scott County school officials made the decision early Tuesday afternoon to call off schools for Wednesday. Cold weather has already had an impact on Scott County schools, which have operated under two-hour delays on six days since returning to school from a two-week winter break on Jan. 5.

In Tennessee, a winter weather advisory has been issued by the National Weather Service station in Morristown. A winter storm is expected to move into the area overnight and into the day Wednesday, and could result in one to two inches of snow, with possibly greater amounts in higher elevations.

Ronnie Hammonds, Kingsport’s streets and sanitation manager, said city crews are currently monitoring all of the various weather information sources, including Weather.com, local forecasts and the National Weather Service. Hammonds said the department will continue to do so throughout the night in the lead up to Wednesday afternoon's projected snowfall.

“We have pre-treatment trucks out pre-treating their routes. They started around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. this morning and we'll be doing that throughout the night,” Hammonds said. “We'll have two shifts out (Tuesday night) with those trucks and we'll continue to monitor the weather situation.”

Kingsport has approximately 3,500 tons of salt on hand, which will be loaded onto the trucks Wednesday morning depending on the day's outlook.

“A few of our vehicles are down for various mechanical reasons, but (Kingsport's Fleet department) will work around the clock with us to keep everything up and going,” Hammonds said.

On Tuesday Wise Residency Assistant Administrator Jackie Christian said VDOT and contractor crews have had few opportunities so far this winter -- not that anyone minds too terribly much -- to shake off the rust and work out the kinks, including a bit of a snowy spree this past weekend, particularly in areas of Wise and Dickenson Counties.

"We've actually been working snow here and there since (last) Friday. We've had slick spots off and on in all four counties," Christian said. The Wise Residency, headquartered in Wise, is responsible for highway maintenance in Scott, Lee, Dickenson and Wise Counties.

"We have had night crews out, and tonight they will be out for the predicted Wednesday snowfall. The last reports we've received predict one to four inches, depending on what (forecast) model you're looking at. But all of our salt, abrasives and chemical supplies are fully stocked and ready to go."

The current season "has been one of our easiest snow removal years in many a season," Christian added. Then again, so was last winter. Right up until the last two weeks of February and first week of March, when it seemed an entire winter's worth of weather literally wreaked havoc across the region, the March portion featuring flooding on top of all else.

So, Christian said, easy does it on the easy stuff.

"It's wintertime now. We have to be ready for whatever, whenever. That's what we do," he said.

"We've also got contractors on standby to assist us, and they helped us over the weekend -- some of them, not all, just what we needed for the situation we had -- and that was in Wise and Dickenson. Basically that involved our secondaries in the early morning hours, and we had some primary (highway) situations as well. But as of right now, our crews are readying our equipment today for another round tomorrow."

Christian noted he could "just about say the same thing over and over" until winter is over, "but like I say, everything is fully stocked. We should be ready to roll. Also, we added two salt storage buildings to our mixture since last year, at Glamorgan (near Wise) and the Red Onion area (near Pound) and that has really helped our response times."