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City of Knoxville crews work overtime to stay ahead of ice

4:43 PM, Jan 25, 2013   |    comments
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Icy conditions were down right dicey around Knoxville, especially for city crews that were out on Friday morning treating the roads.

Wayne Bailey drives one of 22 trucks salting main roads and overpass bridges. 

"They tend to freeze over because the air coming underneath the bridge," said Bailey.

Bridges on Liberty Street, near downtown, and Sutherland Avenue are along Bailey's route.   Bailey said he had been at work since early Thursday morning preparing for the storm.  He said he's worked about 15 hours driving a salt truck, several hours getting equipment ready to hit the road, and took a nap in between to rest and re-energize before hitting Friday's icy roads.

"You can see that it has crystal on both sides of the road," he explained.

Salt slows the slippery surface everywhere except the sidewalks.

"I try to make two swipes across the bridge in order to get enough salt on them," Bailey said.

Bailey also answered a call a few blocks away on Highland Street in The Fort near UT. The hill looked like a skating rink around 9:00 a.m.

"You cannot predict ice," Bailey said.

Driver Laura Goetzman discovered that the hard way coming down the Highland hill. She said she was trying to get to work at a hospital in Newport when her car collided with another car parked on the street.

"As soon as I tapped on the brakes to slow down at the stop sign, I started to slide and lost control of the car," Goetzman explained.

Bailey's task was to back his big truck up the hill spraying salt along the way to melt the ice for a wrecker. Conditions were so crummy that even the tow-truck operator struggled with sliding. Goetzman knows she's lucky.

"It was really scary...I'm really thankful I'm not hurt," she said.

Goetzman's hurt car is proof how treacherous some streets were through Friday afternoon. If crews like Bailey can reach those roads, ice can melt in minutes.

Still, Bailey reminds drivers: "If you don't have to be out, don't be out."

One other thing: Streets that melt during the day will likely freeze over by night. City of Knoxville crews will be out on the roads until the ice event is over, likely through Saturday morning. Again, their priorities are main roads and bridges.

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