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Road chief defends performance on roads

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By Cindy Simpson

Many Roane County roads were still covered in dangerous slick ice Thursday morning, well after weather forecaster said they should be clear.

Roane County Road Superintendent Tom Hamby said road crews began salting roads in Roane County 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and were still at work noon Thursday.

He said the icy rain coating everything started earlier than his department expected.

Accidents caused crews to change routes and also slowed them down, Hamby added.

Wrecks on Bluff Road — including eight vehicles in one spot — caused considerable delay, he said.

Two salt trucks were used to block the road.

“We had to block it for the wrecker to get to it. Stuff like that throws you behind,” Hamby said.

Some residents questioned whether a truck had even been through last night, including on parts of curving and treacherous Bluff Road and Skyline View Lane.

“This ice is just hard to deal with,” Hamby said. “I haven’t been with them all night, but I know what my drivers (do).”

With the low temperatures and cold rain, the roads often freeze back over even if a truck has been through, he said.

The warming temperatures have helped more than anything, he said. Temperatures rose to 36 degrees shortly around noon Thursday.

“Today we are making a lot of progress,” Hamby added.
Hamby said the county doesn’t use a chemical agent like others do.

“Some use calcium chloride mixed in with salts. They mix it somehow. I never have used it. Of course, it has been a long time since we had an ice storm in December,” Hamby said.

He said all Roane County uses is “salt and chips” and the state uses brine — a predissolved salt-mix.

Hamby said the department has to be careful because salt trucks have the same chances of slipping and sliding on the icy roads as anyone else.

“Knox County had one turn over,” Hamby said.

Hamby said Roane County has four big trucks, two salt sprayers and a one-ton truck used for salting.

Keeping up a salt supply is has also been a concern.

“I bought some yesterday. I’m going to have to look tomorrow and probably get some more,” Hamby said.