By Rebekah K. Bohannon Beeler
Signals feature writer
On Jan. 5-9, Tennessee seemingly exchanged places with Alaska. While Alaska enjoyed a heat wave with record high temperatures, Cumberland County got a taste of subarctic winds, rains, snowfall, and ice. With temperatures reaching record lows and a wind chill of -12 degrees, Lake Tansi was left to the birds. Hoards of Canadian geese, American coots, mallards, hooded mergansers, and other beautiful water fowl flocked to the water and were just about the only warm blooded creatures out and about during the winter blast.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) declared Tennessee under a Level III state of emergency at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5 as the winter weather moved across the state. Beautiful but frigid, the cold front, now the understatement of the season, brought about the challenge of harsh winter weather and near unmanageable frozen environment. The bitter conditions began with glacial rain turning to heavy snow. As temperatures plummeted rapidly, the impending ice and snowfall made Lake Tansi nearly come to a full stop. Schools closed, buses remained parked, sleds were abandoned and inhabitants were far and few between.
The National Weather Service (NWS) entered several Record Event Reports for Crossville confirming the record breaking lows. In fact, two reports were released for Monday, Jan. 6 stating the previous record of 3 degrees, set in 1959, was broken first by a low of 1 degree and then again as temperatures continued to fall to -2 degrees. The lake water was warmer than the air and the steam rolled off the lake like mythical Scottish Selkies rising out of the water looking for their long lost loves.
Another Record Event Report was submitted for Tuesday, Jan. 7 with a record breaking low of -9 degrees, deposing the previous record of -4 degrees set in 1970. This was quite a drastic change from the Record Event Reports from the NWS stating record breaking high temperatures in Crossville of 69 degrees on Dec. 5, and 68 degrees on Dec. 23.
By Wednesday, Jan. 8, Lake Tansi was frozen solid save for a handful of tiny, slushy ponds out in the middle. The water fowl then took to the small pockets of unfrozen lake to swim and others stood nearby in massive clusters on the ice. Ironically, the NWS issued Record Event Reports for Alaska of record high minimums and tied record maximums for Jan. 7 and 8 in Bethel, King Salmon and Cold Bay staying between 39 and 45 degrees.
Lake Tansi wasn’t without incident, but no serious injury or damage was reported by the POA or the timeshare office. The POA suffered frozen plumbing fixtures at the outdoor pool, but all in all was thankful that it was only a minor inconvenience.
The scenery, although treacherous, was quite breathtaking. Lake Tansi was beautifully frosted over and picturesque. And with the winter weather bringing flocks of water fowl in close range, it was a bird watcher’s paradise. This one was definitely for the birds.