Photo: Pileup on Interstate 40
Photo Credit: AP
Published February 16, 2021
Over the weekend, Tennesseans began to brace themselves for the major winter storm that ran from coast to coast. The icy weather is expected to continue throughout Tuesday and possibly through the week.
A third of the United States, around 100 million people, were put under an advisory by the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center over the weekend.
Throughout the end of the weekend and into Monday, Tennessee experienced icy and snowy conditions that contributed to traffic accidents, pile-ups, and school and business closures. The winter storm could keep going strong for another few days, which has urged state officials to ask residents to remain at home.
Starting on Saturday morning, Nashville experienced a 21 vehicle pile-up that led to at least twelve injuries. Claudia Arakas, a 22-year-old Nashville resident who was involved in the incident, stated that slamming on her brakes did nothing against the ice.
Arakas said, “I didn’t have much control, but I took my foot off the gas and tried to do my best to steer. I can’t even tell you how I managed to get out. I was watching cars crash in front of me, while also maneuvering – oh my gosh, it was insane.”
The Nashville Fire Department sent out fifteen fire trucks, and several motorists were taken to the hospital. However, there were no reported fatalities. By early afternoon on Monday, there had been dozens of reported traffic accidents, and almost 460 power outages.
Charlie Caplinger, Tennessee Highway Patrol Lieutenant, said, “This is not your ordinary average snowstorm. It does not matter what kind of vehicle you are driving. On the ice, you cannot stop.”
The National Weather Service warned that even areas just experiencing rain could see it turn into deadly icy conditions. Overnight temperatures are likely to refreeze anything that is able to thaw during the day. The Nashville Electric Service said that around one hundred customers have lost power, as well as 360 Middle Tennessee Electric customers.
Crews are already at work to restore power to these customers, but officials are suggesting they have emergency kits at the ready. Even customers who still have electricity could see another outage as the winter storm continues.
Nearly every county in Middle Tennessee experienced ice buildup on the roads starting early Monday morning.
Kathryn Schulte, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said “Crews have been working through the night and are currently focused on treating interstates and the most heavily traveled state routes.”
According to Metro Water Services, frozen pipes are another problem that Tennesseans have been dealing with through the storm. While there are steps to prevent this, it can still happen, but there are safe ways to handle it.
Metro Water said, “If you do experience frozen water lines, remember to NEVER use open flames. An open flame could cause the water in the pipe to turn into steam and build up enough pressure to split the pipe. Sometimes ice in a pipe will melt if you warm it with a hairdryer or wrap it in hot towels.”