Crews: "When it Starts, We'll Start"

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Maryville, Blount County (WVLT) - This storm could leave much of the Smoky Mountains under several inches of snow.

Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb went to one of three mini stations in south Blount County keeping a close watch on how crews there are preparing to deal with the storm.

The crews will lay down what they call "chat", it's a mixture of salt to melt the snow and small crushed rock to give motorists traction. It's being stationed around the county now, but ready to go when the snow begins to fall.

It's the sound of tractors and trucks rolling that can be heard in Blount and Sevier counties with the anticipation of severe weather.

"The air temperature, ground temperature is where it ought to be to have a snow," says Blount County Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap.

In Blount County they are preparing three temporary chat stations, including one in Townsend.

"We're stock piling along the base of the mountains to keep the trucks from having to be on the roads so much when they're empty," Dunlap explains.

With a large number of roads in Sevier County, pre-treating roadways has already begun.

"We're already on back roads putting chat and stuff like this to try to get ready and make sure our trucks are ready to go," says Sevier County Highway Superintendent Jonas Smelcer.

But they will not be pre-treating with salt in the National Park.

"We don't use salt because salt impacts the environment, vegetation and aquatics," says Nancy Gray from the National Parks.

With up to 7 inches of snow forecasted here, major roads like Newfound Gap could become impassable.

"Is the road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, North Carolina, and reaches the higher elevations and that's usually the first road that closes," Gray says.

Expect major roads in Sevier County to be cleared first.

"Upper Middle Creek from Dollywood to Caton's Chapel, Richardson Cove, and In Seymour we're talking about Porter Field Gap," says Smelcer.

Meanwhile county road officials are now waiting on Old Man Winter.

"There will be trucks in each zone. When it starts we'll start," says Dunlap.

Blount County began pre-treating major roadways and the mountain roads about 5:30 and will continue until around 9:00 p.m. Wednesday.

After that the trucks will come in and wait for the snow to begin.


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