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Weathering the storm

With 900 miles of roadways to maintain, Washington County Roads Superintendent Johnny Deakins has a big job to do every day of the year. Add the multiple inches of snow that fell throughout the last month, and it suddenly becomes an even larger job.
Deakins’ road crew includes 89 employees who help run 32 snow plows throughout the county during a snow event like the one last week.
However, the county doesn’t run plows at night and cannot pre-salt before a snowfall because there is not a budget for it, Deakins said.
“We have to wait until we know a snow event is coming,” he said. “We are reactive rather than proactive, and we pretty much have to play it by ear. But when we get three or four inches of snow falling in a day and laying on the ground, we are on the road with the plows.”
Similarly, the Town of Jonesborough’s reaction to a snow is determined by the “totality of the event,” according to Craig Ford, town operations manager.
“(Last Thursday night), the snow came late in the evening and was a dry snow,” Ford said. “Our crews spent all night pushing it and then spreading salt, but it wasn’t really effective until Friday. This week’s snowfall is packing, which causes a sheet of ice to form underneath and it is extremely dangerous. That’s when the salt really helps.”
Another winter storm, this one in December, had county, town and state crews scrambling to clean up the 8 to 9 inches of snow that blanketed the region’s roadways.
Deakins said his crew worked 32 hours straight, spreading a mixture of raw salt, additives and limestone in order to clear the county roads. The town’s crews also worked around the clock to keep the roads safe for driving. During the December storm, area highways like Interstate 26, which is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, saw road conditions that left motorists stranded for hours. The weather was so dangerous it even forced the local mall to shut its doors for a part of the weekend before Christmas.
“That snowfall on Dec. 18 was wet, deep and heavy and it caused tremedous problems,” Ford recalled. “We were overwhelmed with the number of accidents from that one. It was late Friday afternoon when that one hit. There was a lot of traffic on the road, and it turned bad really fast.”