Preparations for power outages and stranded travelers were largely unneeded as Tennessee made it through the worst of the arctic freeze without major incidents.
Many people stayed home as bitter cold and sub-zero wind chills forced the closure of everything from schools, to senior centers to Goodwill donation trailers in Tennessee. Even the slopes at Ober Gatlinburg closed early Monday night.
Although demand for power taxed the electrical grid, with the Tennessee Valley Authority reporting near-record winter power demand in preliminary figures, most of the state avoided power outages.
Tennessee even cancelled its state of emergency on Monday afternoon, despite predictions that the sub-zero wind chills would continue into Tuesday.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeremy Heidt said the agency had been working with the Red Cross, which had 21 shelters on standby, in advance of the cold front. There were also four-wheel-drive vehicles equipped with blankets and other necessities at the ready to rescue travelers stranded on the state’s highways and interstates.
All that proved to be unnecessary, as the roads remained mostly clear thanks to little precipitation and preparation by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Spokeswoman Deanna Lambert said the department prepared the roads with brine in advance of the bad weather and then hit them again with salt beginning on Sunday night.
The eastern third of the state saw sporadic power outages as Volunteer Energy Cooperative reported record power demand that overheated equipment, throwing breakers. Spokesman Robert McCarty said some people had power go off and on several times overnight Tuesday, but he did not think that any customers in the company’s 17-county region were without power the entire time.
The Tennessee Valley Authority said preliminary figures showed demand for power at 9 a.m. EST on Tuesday reached the second highest winter peak in TVA history at 32,460 megawatts. At that time, the average temperature was 4 degrees across the TVA region – which covers almost all of Tennessee and part of six surrounding states. Tuesday’s peak is 112 megawatts less than the record winter demand set on Jan. 16, 2009, when temperatures averaged 9 degrees.
Temperatures were still very low across the state by late morning, but the overnight lows were not predicted to be as severe as the previous two days. In Knoxville, temperatures on Tuesday night were expected to hit 9 degrees, rising to 38 on Wednesday. Temperatures in Nashville and Memphis were predicted to stay in the teens overnight, also hitting the upper 30s on Wednesday.
Only in the West Tennessee did hazardous weather remain a concern into Wednesday as the National Weather Service predicted a 50 percent chance of snow, sleet and freezing rain on Wednesday night and early Thursday. The precipitation was expected to be light but possibly enough to make travel hazardous.
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