By Nick Austin, Meteorologist / Reporter - bio | email
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB-TV) -- The Chattanooga Public Works Department got a head start Thursday afternoon preparing for a late-night ice storm. The first order of business is spraying a brine solution on roads in hopes of making them a little less dangerous.
"We're pre-treating all bridges, higher elevations, principal arterial streets in and out of town," says Tony Boyd, Assistant Director of Operations.
Elevated roads ice up faster than low-lying, secondary streets. But Boyd says they'll get to as many secondary streets as possible.
Nearly three dozen trucks applying thousands of gallons of brine, as well as tons of salt-and-sand mixture, will work through the night. Crews are ready to put in overtime to get ready for what could be the biggest ice storm to hit the Tennessee Valley since the 1990s.
"We're prepared to staff two 12 hour shifts around the clock until the event's over," explains Boyd. For some areas this may not be until lunch time Friday.
Power lines are likely to give under the weight of the ice, so EPB crews have been getting ahead of the storm, too. They're already setting up shop in hard-to-reach places.
"We are pretty well ready. We're going to put a couple of trucks up on the mountains," says Wendell Boring, Assistant Vice President of Operations.
The remainder of the crews, including contractors and other back-up units, will be ready to respond as soon power outages occur.
This is where the Smart Grid helps. It's a new high-tech automated system which re-routes electricity from multiple sources to areas without power. This identifies problem areas quickly and keeps fewer people in the dark during outages. In the past 18 months the Smart Grid, according to development manager Jim Glass, has improved overall service by 40%.
"It's been a pretty dramatic improvement in reliability and in keeping people's lights on," says Glass.
The looming ice storm could be the hardest test yet for the the system and everyone involved. Both Public Works and EPB are up for the challenge.
"We're sitting on dead ready," says Boring.
Boring adds the toughest challenge will be reaching some of the problem areas. But chains are available to put on the tires of the trucks and each truck has a chainsaw to cut through downed trees. Boring urges anyone who sees a downed power line to call EPB and stay away from the line as it could be a live wire. He also recommends if streets in your area begin to ice over, stay where you are and don't try to drive.