In what the National Weather Service is calling the coldest February since 1978, Grundy County was hit hard in the past week with snow, ice, and freezing rain. Temperatures dipping into the single digits and wind chills below zero made for dangerous road conditions, power outages, and multiple snow days for local students.
Winter weather began moving into the area over a week ago, and continued into this week. On Monday, February 16, Governor Bill Haslam declared a Level III State of Emergency, allowing for the deployment of needed resources throughout the state, including a Red Cross shelter in Monteagle.
One of the worst ice storms to hit Grundy County arrived Friday evening. Saturday, Gov. Haslam raised the State of Emergency to a Level III, and state agencies began working in the hardest hit areas to aid in debris removal, conduct welfare checks, and support local infrastructures.
Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum says that his main concern through the storm was the safety of Grundy County residents.
“We had several people without heat and we worked to help get them what they needed. In Coalmont, we had a family who needed wood their wood stove. After posting this need on our GCSO Facebook page, we had several people deliver logs to the family,” stated Shrum. “In Monteagle, we had a family who needed some electric heaters. We used Facebook again and the people of Grundy County came through for us.”
During the storm, deputies patrolled in four-wheel drive vehicles. Deputies were assigned to specific zones (Palmer/Gruetli-Laager/Coalmont, Altamont/Beersheba Springs, and Tracy City/Monteagle) so they would be readily available if needed.
Shrum says he is very pleased with how operations went. “I am very impressed with the level of communication we had between the GCSO, the Mayor’s Office, Emergency Medical Services, TDOT, and SVEC. This communication was maintained throughout the bad weather.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the deputies found themselves providing support to Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative. Strong winds overnight on Friday brought down trees and power lines that were already covered in snow and ice in the north end of the county.
“SVEC had 2,500 – plus members out of power during the height of the storm,” said Mike Partin, president and CEO of SVEC. “The hardest hit areas in Grundy were Beersheba Springs and Skymont. We had several broken poles.
“SVEC brought in crews from Marion County to assist with getting power running for customers. In addition, we brought in our contract crews of Service Electric, Lewis Tree Service, and Kendall Tree Service,” continued Partin.
“We were very fortunate. Our sister coop to the North, Volunteer EC, had 40,000 out at one time and it will take days, if not weeks, to restore power to that area.
“I would like to thank the entire Grundy crew for their hard work. I would also like to thank the volunteer fire and rescue departments who assisted as well,” said Partin.
While many people worked during the storm, Grundy County students enjoyed an extended vacation. As of Tuesday morning, the school had cancelled classes for six straight days. Many parents expressed confusion over the closings on Monday, when main roads were clear. However, safety of the students is the number one concern of the school system when determining to close schools for inclement weather, and parents should consider the condition of side roads across the county.
School Board Chairman Tim Spicer says the decision to call a snow day is not made lightly.
“The Director of Schools, Dr. David Dickerson, consults with the transportation supervisor when making the determination. They take into account weather forecasts and physically check roadways,” said Spicer. “Plus, they consider not only roadway travel, but icy conditions on the school grounds as well.”
Tuesday’s snow day was the last one scheduled for the school year. But, Gov. Haslam has the authority to wave any days missed under a State of Emergency.
TEMA estimated on Tuesday that 34,262 customers in eight counties were still without power. At press time, 27 deaths were being blamed on the storm including a 73-year-old man in Moore County and an 85-year-old man in Sequatchie County, both of whom passed away due to hypothermia.
Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady says neighboring White County will be without power and water for some time.
“Bonaire Mountain in White County suffered devastating weather this past week,” said Brady. “The citizens there are experiencing power outages and loss of water that are estimated to be as long as three weeks. They are seeking supplies to help with this devastation.
“The residents of that area are in great need of non-perishable food items, diapers, baby wipes, baby formula, bottled water, blankets, any type of toiletries, flashlights, batteries, and any other day-to-day items. Any way you can help will be greatly appreciated. If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, you can bring your items to the Grundy County Mayor’s office by 12 p.m. on Friday, February 27.”
Brady added, “The citizens of Grundy County have always had a big heart and a helping hand to those in need. Any help will be greatly appreciated.”
Forecasters are predicting more snow for Wednesday. With the roads and ground at or below freezing, the potential exists for more hazardous conditions.