Even after four hours of steady snowfall, roads in Blount County were mostly free of any accumulation or ice Tuesday night.

In the past, the county has not pretreated roads. Last winter, the Blount County Highway Department tested a calcium pretreatment on a few main county roads. Tuesday's snowfall was the first time the county prepared for the snow with the treatment.

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"We're getting close to probably around 7,000-8,000 gallons of calcium, which is a lot, especially for Blount County," Highway Department Superintendent Jeff Headrick said. "We've been able since 1 p.m. yesterday to pretreat a lot of roads that have probably never been pretreated before."

Blount County snow plow
A snow plow clears snow from a road in Blount County.

Department supervisors said the difference in the pretreatment was clear.

"Normally this road right here would be completely covered, I mean covered in ice," Scott White said as he drove his plow along Dotson Memorial Road. "This is what the calcium does to it. It breaks it up to where you can get it off with the plow. Most the time, you couldn't do it."

White said the calcium treatment allowed crews to keep county roads safer for longer.

"It's starting to freeze back and turn to slush. There'll be a certain window when we'll not be able to get it off the road, but all in all, they're in great shape compared to what they usually are," White said.

While TDOT is responsible for the state highways through Blount County, the county highway department is still responsible for more than 830 miles of roads.

Headrick said despite the thorough treatment, the bitter temperatures and steep terrain continue to cause problems for the department.

Roads in the county along Chilhowee Mountain including Montvale Road, Butterfly Gap Road and Happy Valley Road have steep grades with numerous narrow switchbacks.

"You've got anywhere from 14 to 18-percent grades, not a whole lot of shoulder, which doesn't leave a lot of room for error," Headrick said. "Not a lot of places where you can even put a guardrail, and they're narrow. Some are 18 feet or less."

The Blount County Highway Department switched from treating with calcium to using salt and plows once the snow started falling around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Headrick says the crews worked until around 9:30 p.m. and would resume salting and plowing again at daylight on Wednesday.