City Spends $1 M in Snowstorm Response

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
[email protected]
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City Spends $1 M in Snowstorm Response

Posted: 02/08/2024
The City of Knoxville spent well over $1 million battling the mid-January historic snowstorm. Most of that was budgeted – after all, firefighters and police officers work 24/7, 365 days a year.

But there were extra unbudgeted expenses. Replenishing 3,000 tons of salt used during the storm cost $366,000. Citywide, employees worked extra hours to address public safety needs.

Fleet Services technicians, for example, began working 12-hour shifts, staffing around the clock. They kept the snow plow and salt trucks rolling 24/7.

Public Service crews worked around the clock for 10 days straight – first brining city streets, then salting and plowing them.

For two weeks, the volume of calls into the 3-1-1 Center for Service Innovation doubled to a daily average of 1,200 a day – and the average wait time before a call was answered was 47 seconds.

“Many Knoxville residents were endangered by the storm, and those are the people we prioritized,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “Our first responders innovated and collaborated to reach everyone needing emergency services.

“Dangerous road conditions caused many residents to miss work. At a minimum, all of us were at least inconvenienced. Storm recovery and making our streets passable was a responsibility that all City employees took seriously and personally. I’m proud of our employees’ hard work. They went the extra mile to serve others.”

On Jan. 15, snow fell, and fell, and then fell some more. Roughly 9 inches of snow fell, followed by an icy mix of precipitation four days later.

Knoxville set a record for troublesome winter weather, according to the National Weather Service: Seven straight days with at least 4 inches of snow on the ground. That was longer than the Blizzard of ’93, and the longest on record. Temperatures bottomed out at -2 degrees.

Through it all, not a single call for emergency services went unanswered.

Over the storm’s 10-day stretch, the Knoxville Police Department responded to more than 3,300 calls for service. That included 296 welfare checks and more than 850 responses to wrecks and disabled vehicles.

KPD also made a number of high-profile arrests: Two armed carjacking suspects were taken into custody.

But police officers also delivered Mobile Meals to shut-in elderly residents. They checked camp sites where individuals experiencing homelessness were staying, and gave many rides to emergency warming centers. Several officers bought and delivered groceries to snowbound elderly residents.

Icy, hilly back roads – impassable for a fire engine? No problem. The Fire Department deployed 4-wheel-drive Quick Response Vehicles (QRVs) 462 times to reach hard-to-access emergency scenes and render life-saving assistance.

In total, KFD and KPD overtime pay during the storm amounted to about $64,000.

And, of course, the snow response required all hands on deck for the Public Service and Fleet Services departments.

Everyone was doing something related to snowstorm recovery for almost two weeks: Employees who might otherwise trim vegetation or scrub graffiti would be driving a truck, or filling trucks with salt, or clearing ice from sidewalks.

“A number of routine services were rightly deferred,” Chief Operating Officer Grant Rosenberg said. “Public safety is always going to come first. The shifting of duties by several of our team members is just one of many hidden costs in responding to a historic storm.”

The Public Service Department spent more than $736,000 in labor, equipment and materials associated with battling the storm. Of that, roughly $81,500 was in overtime as employees worked 24/7 during the storm.

Fleet Services spent about $266,000 related to storm-response work – $111,000 in regular salaries and overtime, $88,000 on parts and repairs, and more than $66,000 for the 28,013 gallons of fuel dispensed throughout the storm.

There were many unsung City heroes – police officers who delivered food to elderly residents, or the “team effort” of the snow-plowing crews and the garage technicians who kept their trucks going 24/7.

To read some of the stories of the behind-the-scenes efforts by City employees, visit