Level II State of Emergency Declared For Fentress, Upper Cumberland Area Following Devastation From Ice Storm

Fentress County Emergency Management Agency Director James Bilbrey locates an area on the map for TEMA District Coordinators David B. Johnson and Michelle Matson and Fentress Co. Emergency Services Information Officer Joe McGrogan, right, on monday as they worked from the Emergency Command Center (EOC) which was set up at the new Fentress County E-911 Center.

Fentress County Emergency Management Agency Director James Bilbrey locates an area on the map for TEMA District Coordinators David B. Johnson and Michelle Matson and Fentress Co. Emergency Services Information Officer Joe McGrogan, right, on monday as they worked from the Emergency Command Center (EOC) which was set up at the new Fentress County E-911 Center.

Tree-IMG_0277After struggling through five days of heavy snow and bitter cold weather including record lows of -5 and -7 degrees on Thursday and Friday, February 19 and 20, Fentress County and the Upper Cumberland Plateau area were blasted with another major winter storm over the weekend, which practically paralyzed the area.

As this storm swept across the state, snow began falling in the Upper Cumberland area early Friday evening, and turned to freezing rain later that night, adding another half-inch or more of ice to trees and power lines which were already ice-clad from the earlier storm.

The higher levels of the Cumberland Plateau were the hardest hit, namely the eastern portion of Putnam County, particularly the Monterey area, then eastward along Hwy. 62 into Fentress County and through Clarkrange, and along I-40 through Cumberland County.

The storm knocked out power to more than 44,000 customers in the Cumberland Plateau area, including some 38,000 Volunteer Energy Cooperative customers in Fentress and Cumberland County,

StormIMG_0276At one time, there were more than 10,500 VEC customers without power in Fentress County and some 22,000 in Cumberland County as the ice-laden trees began falling, snapping power lines and power poles in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 21.

As of noon Tuesday, there were still some 2,700 VEC customers in Fentress County without power, and over 16,000 in Cumberland County.

A major TVA transmission line which came down across both lanes of Interstate 40 Saturday morning in Monterey closed the Interstate for some time, and trees and power lines down on Highway 62 between Monterey and Clarkrange, and Highway 84 from Monterey to Livingston forced the closing of both those roads until emergency crews could respond and begin cutting away trees and debris.

Practically all of the Clarkrange area was without power until late Monday, and work continued, with several crews being brought in from various other utility companies, and this work contined through Tuesday as they attempted to restore power.  Some of the hardest hit areas, particularly in the eastern and southern portions of the county, are expected to be without power for several more days.

On Sunday, VEC Vice President and President of Operations Clyde Jolley said the extent of the damage and road conditions were hampering the restoration efforts:

“With so many trees down and the icy road conditions, it is slow going in some areas, Jolley said. “But our crews will be working non-stop until power is restored to all VEC customers.  We apologize for the inconveniences.:

In addition to the cold and the rain, heavy fog settled across much of the area, with the hardest concentration in the southern Fentress County area, which further hampered the restoration efforts.

In the midst of the loss of electricity, many natural gas customers of the City of Jamestown were without gas service for several hours over the weekend, as there was a major gas leak in Clarkrange, which forced shutting off gas service to much of the area.

While the various utility agencies were busy trying to restore services, the Fentress County Emergency Services Organization, Fentress County Emergency Management, and all the other emergency services-related agencies responded to the situation.

Read the rest of the story in this weeks Fentress Courier.