Christmas snowstorms create slick roadways and power outages in the Tri-Cities

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TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) — Sudden snowstorms turned the Tri-Cities into a winter wonderland for Christmas 2020, but the advice from roadway officials remains the same as Christmas Eve.

“If you do not have to be on the roadways, stay off the roadways tonight,” said Mark Nagi of TDOT.

Nagi said freezing temperatures have created several slick spots and heighten the potential for drivers to hit black ice.

“We’ve seen some fender benders throughout the region, but fortunately we haven’t seen anything too major in terms of multiple crashes, in terms of backup and things like that,” he said.

VDOT cameras showed mostly clear roadways along I-81 for Virginia drivers around noon Friday. Michelle Earl, communications manager for VDOT Bristol, said drivers should still be prepared before hitting the road.

“If staying home isn’t an option, we understand some people do have to work during the snow season, just allow extra travel time,” said Earl. “Make sure you have a car kit, make sure your phone is fully charged, that you have water, and just take it slow.”

But for some Tri-Cities families this Christmas, the winter storm is impacting them not just on roadways, but in their own homes. On Friday, some News Channel 11 viewers reported losing power and having to use their cars to stay warm and charge devices.

BrightRidge confirmed there were around 150 scattered power outages as of 11 a.m. Friday. A BrightRidge spokesperson sent News Channel 11 the following statement:

“We were down to about 130 outages but lost another pole which puts us at about 150 outages. We have also lost about a half dozen or so residential distribution transformers. The biggest remaining issue is that the remaining outages are very scattered.

If you look on our website you can take a look at the outage map and see how scattered these are. Hover over the colored circles and you will see they are by ones and twos. This is obviously the most time intensive type of restoration effort. In some cases, there is damage to the customers equipment, such as the weather head attached to the home and the meter base attached to the weather head. In those cases, the customer will need to contact a private electrician as those facilities are the customer’s responsibility to maintain.

Restoration efforts will continue around the clock. It will likely be late into the afternoon before the majority of remaining outages are restored.”

Crews have been out since Wednesday addressing power line issues, according to BrightRidge lineworker Bo Tatum.

“It started out wet and it’s ended up cold. We’ve been trying to cut trees off the line, maintain lines that have been broke down, torn down by the trees, replace transformers,” said Tatum.

A BrightRidge crew could be seen working through the weather at a Johnson City apartment complex on Friday.

“Just trudging through the snow and trying to get people’s power back on,” said Tatum.

Needing increased crews out on the holiday is a reality of the Tri-Cities’ first White Christmas in a decade.

“Merry Christmas everybody,” said Tatum.

Stay updated on winter weather conditions here.

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