ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – Terry Haynes has seen decades’ worth of inclement weather in Unicoi County. Monday’s snowfall wasn’t some of the worst he has seen, but he knows what could have been.
“If all that rain had been snow, we’d have been sitting under another ’93 blizzard,” he said. “But it’s kindly, I think, went further north of us and we just got the tail end of it.”
Haynes, the Unicoi County road superintendent, said the most recent snow totaled upwards of six inches in some of the county’s highest elevations.
“Maybe up on the real top we’ve got more than that,” he said.
But, as of late Monday morning, the total salt usage to treat the roads was significantly less than expected.
“I figured about 98 tons we’ve used right now on it. Some of the trucks haven’t even come in and got any – they’re just pushing it off.”
Still, any snow seems foreign after the mild fall and winter the Tri-Cities has seen up to this point.
“We’ve had it easy since October, November and December, you know,” he said. “It’s been just about tropical weather.”
While the slushy snow proved easier to clear off of the roads, it caused problems in another area.
“The wet snow – heavy, wet snow falling on the trees and bringing the trees down,” Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said Monday afternoon.
“Got a lot of power lines down,” he added. “Erwin Utilities is doing a tremendous job of doing everything they got to deal with.”
From Mill Creek to Lower Higgins Creek Road, crews responded to incidents quickly in hopes of fixing all the downed power lines by nightfall. Sheriff Hensley said the cleanup has been a total team effort.
“The Highway Department, DOT, my work crew – we got some search and rescue team boys out – everybody pitched in,” Hensley said.
The snow stopped falling in most places by Monday afternoon, but officials warned that potential travel issues were not over.
“If you don’t need to travel, you need to stay at home,” Hensley said. “Of course, I know there’s a lot of people that have to work. But, this stuff is going to be freezing tonight.”
“When it freezes – it’s treacherous right now, but when it freezes, it gets a little worse,” Haynes said.
Haynes and his crew have a tried and true method to make the roads a bit safer for travel.
“We have a salt mixture – it’s salt and rock dust – and we put it on there and the salt will melt and the chat dust will give traction,” he said. “We hope, you know, that will help people get in tonight.”
Still, the advice is to steer clear of the roads altogether.
“If you could stay home – stay home and not be out,” Haynes said.