By the Numbers: How the City Battled a Record Snowstorm

Communications Director

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

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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By the Numbers: How the City Battled a Record Snowstorm

Posted: 01/23/2024
As Knoxville digs out from a record snowstorm, City crews are continuing today to remove snow and ice from residential streets, downtown sidewalks and the entrances and parking lots of City facilities.

Once crews complete their snowstorm recovery work, a thorough assessment will be conducted, as happens every year: Where can the City improve its snow response? And, specific to 2024: How should the Snow Plan be amended, based on experiences battling the City’s most crippling snowstorm on record?

Final numbers on City staff hours and labor and material costs associated with the mid-January snowstorm won’t be available for weeks. 

But here are some preliminary estimates of the City Public Service Department’s efforts since pre-treatment brining began on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024:

The City of Knoxville’s 24 trucks equipped to salt and clear Knoxville roads were driven 17,075 miles by Public Service employees, according to mileage counters and GPS locators attached to City fleet vehicles. 

For context, there are about 500 lane miles of Level 1 and 2 streets in the city – major traffic arteries, collector streets, approaches to hospitals, bridges, etc. These priority streets can’t just be treated once. Due to the nature of the historic snowfall and sub-freezing temperatures, plus more icy precipitation on Jan. 18, Level 1s and 2s required repeated salting and plowing.

Public Service labor, equipment and materials associated with responding to the storm will exceed $624,340. That’s as of today – the numbers are expected to increase.

Of that expense, $366,000 worth of salt – 3,000 tons of salt, priced at $122 a ton – was spread by Public Safety crews.

Labor estimates only reflects Public Service’s 24/7 staffing since Jan. 14. Fleet Services technicians, police officers, firefighters, Emergency Medical Services personnel and paramedics also staffed 24/7.

“Public safety is Job 1 – period,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “I can’t say enough about the incredible dedication, persistence and selflessness of City employees who helped get us through a very tough week.

“Our first responders and snow crews shouldered most of the burden. They’ve worked 24/7 for 10 straight days now. It’s exhausting and sometimes dangerous work. Ten of our 24 salt trucks at some point slid off the roads into ditches. We’re thankful that no employees were injured.”

According to the National Weather Service, Knoxville has set a new record for troublesome winter weather: Seven straight days with at least 4 inches of snow on the ground. That broke the previous record from 1996, and it also was longer than the Blizzard of 1993. Roughly 9 inches of snow fell at the start of last week’s storm, followed by more precipitation four days later.

Snow Plan cover imageThe City’s Snow Plan – – intentionally, strategically and objectively prioritizes where public-safety resources first should be deployed. 

The plan does not automatically call for treatment of small residential streets. Nevertheless, City crews made their way into the neighborhoods on Jan. 18, 2024 – but then had to return their attention again to Level 1s and 2s the same day, following an ice storm. 

“Throughout this storm, supporting the immediate needs of public safety, healthcare, public utilities and other essential service needs had to be our No. 1 priority,” Public Service Director Chad Weth said.

“That includes making it possible for Fire and Police Department emergency responses, for CAC to deliver meals to homebound seniors, for patients to access dialysis clinics.

“Public Service is proud to report that there was not a single call for emergency services that could not be handled. In many instances, even if EMTs couldn’t take a 20-ton fire truck up a slick hill, we made sure that roads were passable for the Fire Department’s Quick Response Vehicle 4-wheel-drive teams.”

Meanwhile, Waste Connections crews continue to experience challenges with pickup of curbside residential trash and recyclables. Contractor crews had been on a one-day delay, starting today, for trash and recyclables collection. However, operations have again been suspended due to the garbage trucks struggling to access some streets.

Waste Connections crews will be collecting on normal Monday routes tomorrow, and then will move on to Tuesday routes if possible. Tuesday routes will be run on Thursday, with Wednesday routes added if possible. 

The one- to two-day delay will continue through Saturday. Any Friday households not collected on Saturday will be picked up on Monday.

A reminder that any overflow trash that doesn’t fit in the cart should be bagged and set next to the cart; overflow recyclables should be placed in a cardboard box or clearly-marked container next to the recycling cart on the resident’s next regular service day. Do not put overflow recyclables in a plastic bag, as the bags are not recyclable and can damage the sorting equipment.