Not as bad as feared

Storm creates problems; nothing major in county
Jan. 26, 2013 @ 04:10 PM

Sevier County appeared to handle the wrath of Khan fairly well, at least as of Friday afternoon.

The winter storm — named Khan by the Weather Channel presumably for reasons other than resemblance to a vengeful “Star Trek” villain played by Ricardo Montalban — had not wreaked as much havoc as feared in the county Friday, although it forced a multitude of closings.

Classes at Sevier County Schools were canceled in advance of the storm, and most government offices either didn’t open or closed early due to the weather. Even The Mountain Press closed its offices early due to the storm.

John Matthews, director of the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency, said there had been few incidents and no major issues reported to his office Friday afternoon.

“I have to credit our leaders,” he said. “I think that kept a lot of commuters off the roads and I think a lot of small business owners followed suit.”

Sevier County Electric Service reported only one isolated outage as of about 2 p.m. Friday. “It’s been really light,” Superintendent Rick Harrell said. “It looks like we dodged a bullet.”

That could change, as some additional precipitation was expected to fall and temperatures were expected to drop again overnight, meaning additional ice could cause more outages.

Emergency officials said they were urging drivers to stay in, especially if they had to traverse secondary roads. Whlie the main roads were treated in advance and were passable Friday afternoon, other roads throughout the county were slick and made for treacherous driving.

In at least one location, an ambulance slid into a ditch while trying to respond to a call. A wildlands truck eventually picked up the patient, and the ambulance driver later managed to extricate the vehicle.

Forecasters said the precipitation appeared set to taper off Friday afternoon into the evening, and temperatures could briefly rise above freezing. But National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Pritchett said any meltdown would be temporary and the roads were likely to refreeze overnight, before temperatures rise to above 40 degrees on Saturday.

The icing was expected to be worse in Gatlinburg, because of its higher elevation, but Chief Randy Brackins said most city roads appeared passable in the afternoon.

Throughout the county, dispatchers and law enforcement officials said there were scattered wrecks but no major accidents and no particular areas that were harder hit than others.

But because some roads had remained slick throughout the day, and some areas were expected to refreeze overnight, they urged people to stay inside and off the roads until temperatures rise above freezing and more of the ice melts.