Traveling in DeKalb County and across Tennessee has been perilous since Monday morning as a winter storm swept through producing mostly freezing rain and sleet in this area and causing layers of ice to form on highways, backroads, trees and power lines. Many customers of Caney Fork Electric Cooperative were without power overnight due to the winter storm. Mid morning problems arose at the sub-station Tuesday causing another power interruption for CFEC customers in DeKalb County. Although that issue has apparently been resolved, still some customers are without power.
"Caney Fork Electric Cooperative is experiencing widespread power outages throughout its service territory," said Angel Wood, Communications Coordinator for CFEC. "All of our employees are working diligently to restore power to our members. Please remember our linemen are working long hours in extreme weather conditions. Due to numerous outages, we are unable to make any guarantees at this time. We are asking any of our members with a medical need for electric power to please consider alternative arrangements or call 911 if you feel you are in a life-threatening situation," she said.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency Monday night activated the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan and declared a State of Emergency in Tennessee as road conditions across the state began to deteriorate. "The roads are still extremely slick. We want everybody to stay inside today if you can," said Sheriff Patrick Ray. " TDOT was out all night long. They would come through and do a good job salting and then a couple of hours later the roadways would become slick again. We had a few wrecks throughout the night. Nothing real serious. Most of them had just run off the roadway," he said.
Downed trees overnight became a particular concern."A lot of the southern and eastern end of the county seems to be the worst that we've had as a call volume of trees being in roads," said Sheriff Ray. "Highway 70 east, Keltonburg, Antioch, and Belk Roads have been the worst hit. The Smithville-DeKalb Rescue Squad, DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, EMS, DeKalb County Highway Department, TDOT, and private citizens and neighbors were all out throughout the night helping cut trees out of the roads trying to make paths where people could get through," he said.
With temperatures expected to remain below freezing, Sheriff Ray there is little chance for a lot of thawing to occur today. "We want to ask people (motorists) to watch for trees that might be half way out in the road and there may be some blocking roads completely. Be very cautious if you have to be out. If anyone sees a tree down across a road, call the central dispatch at 615-215-3000 and we'll try to get somebody out there to clean it up. It's going to take some time for the highway department to get all these trees cleaned up. There's a lot of them down . Another danger is the trees falling. I know school is out and children want to go out and play but it could be dangerous if they were to get under any trees that are loaded down with ice," he said.
Although a few people chose to relocate temporarily overnight because of the winter storm due to power outages, no one had to be evacuated according to DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Charlie Parker. "We've had several people who have relocated to family and friends homes. I know of two or three different families with small children who went to other places but we did not physically evacuate anybody. We did open the Smithville Fire Hall Monday night for a short period of time. We had some people who came up there because their electricity was out all afternoon. Most ended up going to motel rooms to stay the night. Others went to stay with family," said Parker.
It's still a good idea to keep a regular check on family members and others who may be at risk during this winter blast. "We are encouraging everybody to do a welfare check with family, friends, and neighbors. You can call them. I know the sheriff's department was doing several welfare checks yesterday and last night just to make sure everybody was alright. If you do have a medical emergency call the 911 center and they will send the appropriate people," he said.
Parker also encourages you keep a close watch on any alternate heat source you may be using during a power outage. "You need to be extremely careful with kerosene and space heaters along with other live fire burning appliances such as stoves and fireplaces. Be careful with the heat, fire, smoke, and fumes," said Parker.