Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham praised county departments for their work last week in addressing an unprecedented winter weather event.
“When you have half a foot of snow, combined with temperatures in the teens and single digits, it creates problems,” said Graham. “Our emergency services don’t have the option of shutting down and staying home. In fact, they must work harder than ever to meet emergency needs under less-than-ideal conditions.”
Bedford County’s emergency departments include:
- Bedford County Emergency Management Agency, led by David Kitchens.
- Bedford County Emergency Medical Services, led by Ted Cox.
- Bedford County Fire Department, led by Chief Mark Thomas.
- Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Austin Swing; and
- Bedford County E-911 Communications Center, led by Phillip Noel.
Kitchens said the local departments did what needed to be done in spite of the challenges.
“That’s what public safety does,” said Kitchens.
For example, Thomas reported that between Jan. 15 and 21, Bedford County Fire Department responded to 20 medical calls, nine car accidents, seven fires, and two gas leaks, plus one fire call through a mutual aid agreement with Coffee County.
“I was in contact with just about everybody,” said Kitchens, including the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. “I think it went pretty well.”
Meanwhile, Highway Superintendent Mark Clanton and his crews worked to try to clear as many of Bedford County’s 631 rural, county-maintained roads – a total of 675 miles of roads — as possible.
“The cold temperatures of this event posed special problems because salt, which is used for de-icing, is ineffective at single-digit temperatures,” said Graham. “As Mark warned us in advance of the event, there are times when salting a road can actually create more problems because as the temperature rises and falls during the day, salt can turn snow, which is slippery, into a sheet of ice, which is even slipperier.”
Counties like Bedford and its neighbors, which can go some winters with little or no snow, can’t afford to spend as much on plows or specialty equipment as a comparable community in the northern U.S., where snow is a way of life and where the winter weather season is much longer.
Citizens stuck at home in cold weather were naturally eager to see their particular road cleared, but Graham thanked citizens for their patience and for understanding just what a large job this was.
“I think all of our departments did an outstanding job considering the situation and the resources available,” said Graham. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve, and our goal is to be ready for the next unexpected event.”