Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 15, 2013

Plateau suffered through blizzard 20 years ago

By Michael R. Moser

CROSSVILLE — The winter storm that sent howling, sub-freezing winds across the Cumberland Plateau was called the 'Blizzard of the Century.' It interrupted life in the Crossville area, closing nearly all state and county roads and leaving icy road conditions, many byways closed by drifting snow.

The storm — which covered some 600 miles across the eastern half of the country — hit the Crossville area on March 13, 1993, and started innocently enough, with freezing rain. The ran, whipped by an arctic blast of wind, quickly turned to snow and created traveling nightmares for the next couple of days.

Snow fell for 37 straight hours and the accompanying windchill was reported to be 20 below zero in the Crossville area. Average snowfall in the Crossville area was placed at 18 inches, but higher drifts created by the pressing winds were reported throughout the area.

One of the biggest problems facing emergency responders during the storm was reaching travelers stranded on I-40. Five shelters were opened to provide refuge for those stuck while trying to cross the Plateau, and for those with extended interruption of power service.

It was estimated that in Tennessee, 4,000 persons were left stranded by the storm, and 11 weather-related deaths were recorded. Estimates placed 438 persons stranded in Cumberland County by the blizzard.

During the peak of the storm, I-40 was closed at the Buffalo Valley exit in western Putnam County, to the North Carolina state line. An estimated 100 persons were stranded between the Crab Orchard and Westel exits.

The Tennessee National Guard was activated by the governor to assist in emergency recovery and with transportation.

The city and county fire departments along with the county rescue squad were pressed into service, delivering persons who worked at the hospital and local nursing homes to their jobs. Many remained on the job until after the storm passed.

So much snow was piled on the edge of shopping centers that the stacks turned into black blocks of ice and remained for over a month before the last evidence of the storm melted.