Thursday, February 17, 2011
Slippin’ and slidin’
By SUE WATSON
Marshall County was blanketed by from three to five inches of snow, Wednesday afternoon and evening, according to Larry Hall, county administrator/road manager. Some areas may have gotten six inches, he said.
The snow last week was the third good one this winter with a minor dusting between the second and third.
The snow, which was forecasted early, still caught many motorists in traffic slowdowns and stops during their afternoon and evening commute on Highway 78 and other arteries. This was due to slippery road conditions that scattered 18-wheelers on 78 and partly because motorists could not get up steep hills.
One area where traffic was backed up east and west of the Holly Springs exit late Wednesday afternoon was particularly hazardous. No serious accidents were reported, however, according to Holly Springs Fire Chief Ken Holbrook.
“Highway 78 just turned into a skating rink, basically, and still is this morning (Thursday, last week around 10:20 a.m.). Every department in the county was running wreck calls at one time.”
Snow began to melt on top with a full day of sunshine Thursday, making driving even more difficult.
“It is slick, too, I promise you,” said Hall early Thursday morning.
About 40 county road employees were helping people out of the ditches and spreading snow melt product on some hill areas like Lake Center. Hall said most folks were staying in Thursday morning except some guys with four-wheel drives who enjoy getting out and pulling vehicles out of ditches.
Once the snow got near to the county, it seemed to come down fast and temperatures plummeted.
“When I got to the Lake Center Exit yesterday (Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.), it was just like riding into a wall of snow,” Hall said. “The temperatures held off until later, then it glazed over. We stayed out and tried to help everybody get home. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. drivers were panicked, then by dark people were settled.”
Snow was powdery but because of a hard freeze overnight, the snow was hard and crunchy. As it warmed up Thursday morning the snow slicked over as the top layer began to melt.
Every snow is different, Hall said.
“Snow and ice, you do what it will let you do,” he said. “Every snow is different and the temperature is different. You have cloud cover or sunshine and all natural elements let you do what you can or can’t do. You can’t push the easy button. We can work the hills and intersections one at a time.”
A truck jackknifed on Highway 78 near the Red Banks exit mid-morning Thursday. That slowed up traffic again Thursday morning. The main roads were clear by sundown Thursday and another hard freeze was on Thursday night. Minor streets in Holly Springs were partly frozen over, particularly the east/west streets in areas of shading.
Emergency management coordinator Hugh Hollowell said trucks lost traction on the hills and snarled traffic Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
“That is the simple answer,” he said. “Where you have a curve and incline to the side, trucks slip off the road. Basically, once traffic died down Wednesday night, folks got home. The driving picture worsened Thursday morning with the sunshine before it got better.”
There were no traffic fatalities but lots of accidents, which were mostly minor with little property damage, Hollowell said.
Holbrook said there were several 18-wheeler wrecks on 78 Wednesday night with two accidents that snarled traffic at the 27-30 mile marker. One person was taken to the hospital, he said.
And there was a house fire in the Laws Hill community around midnight Wednesday, he said.
A working smoke detector is attributed with saving the lives of four people in the mobile home which burned to the ground, Holbrook said.
A man successfully got himself, a 5-month-old, a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old out of the structure, the chief said.
That’s a good story, he said.
“For less than a $10 investment, these lives were saved,” he said.
City schools and county schools were closed Thursday and Friday. Marshall Academy and Holy Family reopened at 10 a.m. Friday.
Traces of snow and ice remained in the shade as late as Sunday.
Old wives tales have circulated, one being retold by Susie Hill.
“You are supposed to have as many snows as you have fogs in August,” she said. “We had four, so we have one more snow.”
She predicts it may come in March.
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