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Ben Garrett

Write. Hike. Eat. Repeat.

I am a 30-something journalist from East Tennessee. My wife and I (and our twins, and dog, and 3 hermit crabs) reside on the eastern boundary of the Big South Fork, where I am editor-publisher of the hometown newspaper and she is an elementary school teacher.

A winter storm this way comes

The winter of discontent continues tonight with the next winter storm in this back-loaded winter that just doesn’t seem to want to give up the ghost.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for the entirety of the northern Cumberland Plateau region this afternoon, as cold air begins to creep southwest. Much of the rest of East Tennessee, outside Scott, Morgan, Campbell and Claiborne counties, remains under a winter storm watch, as forecasters at the National Weather Service in Morristown continue to evaluate just how far eastward the impacts of this storm will extend. Expect a final call for those areas, including the Knoxville metro area, in the next hour or so.

For now, the NWS is forecasting up to a quarter-inch of ice and 1-3 inches of snow for the eastern side of the plateau (Scott/Morgan counties), and a tenth of an inch of ice and 2-5 inches of snow for the western side of the plateau (Pickett/Fentress counties). The reason for the differences is because different NWS offices are responsible for the plateau. NWS-Nashville is siding with more snow and less ice, while NWS-Morristown is siding with more ice and less snow.

I was critical of NWS-Morristown last week for not giving enough credit to models that indicated we would see up to a half-inch of devastating ice here on the edge of the plateau. But this time around, their forecast is more in line with what the most reliable models have shown for the past couple of days.

Details as far as how much we’ll see of each precipitation type remain in doubt, but the GFS and NAM models have consistently shown most of our precipitation falling in the form of freezing rain and sleet, followed by a little snow on the back end of the system. Today’s midday run of the NAM model shows 0.25” freezing rain for the northern plateau, along with almost a half-inch of sleet. That’s somewhat in line with the same model’s run from earlier this morning, which showed just over a quarter-inch of freezing rain and nearly 0.7” of sleet. 

One thing the midday run of the NAM model did do was bring in colder temperatures aloft a little more quickly. Whereas this morning’s run showed no snow for the northern plateau, the afternoon run showed three inches of snow, with less sleet.

The midday run of the GFS model, meanwhile, also brings in colder temperatures aloft more quickly. The result is very little freezing rain on this particular portrayal of what’s going to happen; the GFS shows less than a tenth of an inch of ice, with nearly 0.4” of sleet and almost three inches of snow. The run of the GFS from earlier this morning showed twice as much ice, about the same amount of sleet, and less snow. 

Snow is better than sleet and ice — particularly ice — any day of the week, so I think these model changes are changes we can all get behind, but it remains to be seen whether they’re reliable.

At 2 p.m., Oneida was registering a temperature of 60 degrees, as was Crossville, while Clarksville was reporting 36 degrees. So the colder air is certainly headed this way. We’re running a little behind schedule, based on what models were projecting. The temperature should really begin to drop in the next couple of hours. It’s worth keeping an eye on to see if anything changes. For now, meteorologists still expect a changeover to frozen precipitation shortly after midnight tonight.

Update I (2:38 p.m.): Perhaps evaluating the midday model guidance (discussed above), NWS-Morristown’s updated winter storm warning for the northern plateau ups snow totals to 2-4 inches. Ice accumulation is still forecasted to be up to a quarter-inch. Not surprisingly, the NWS went with a winter weather advisory for the rest of East Tennessee, calling for ice accumulation up to a tenth of an inch and snow/sleet accumulations generally less than two inches.

Frank talk about paywalls

A crossover post from my Editor’s Notes newspaper blog:

First, let me be completely upfront: I despise them as much as anyone. In fact, I loathe them. While I have a subscription to the News Sentinel and a number of the other newspapers in Tennessee, it’s disappointing to see a headline on Twitter or Facebook that interests you, click on the link, and find that you can’t read it because you aren’t a subscriber. It’s frustrating. I get that.

But I also know that newspapers have to pay their bills, just like any business. I don’t expect an ice cream shop to give away free ice cream, or McDonald’s to give away free burgers, so I probably shouldn’t expect the LaFollette Press to give away free news stories.

The most common complaint against paywalls, and the most logical one, is that online news stories can be found free from radio and television websites. That’s a valid point.

The storm of uncertainty

Winter storms in this part of the world almost always involve a great deal of uncertainty. It drives weathermen crazy, and it drives people crazy with weathermen.

But a winter storm that appears to be on tap for the northern Cumberland Plateau (and much of the rest of Tennessee) late tomorrow into early Thursday has more than its fair share of uncertainty attached.

With just over 24 hours to go before this storm begins to impact the region, there is still a great deal of variety being depicted by models. It still appears that a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow will fall, but exactly how much remains in doubt.

For now, the National Weather Service in Morristown is forecasting 1-2 inches of snow and sleet accumulation, with a tenth of an inch of ice accumulation Wednesday night, and a 40 percent chance of snow showers lingering into Thursday morning.

One thing that does appear likely is that the worst impacts from this storm will be to our west and to our north. And the impacts will diminish further as you go south and east from here.

For now, NWS-Morristown still does not have the eastern side of the plateau or any of the rest of East Tennessee under a winter storm watch, while NWS-Nashville has placed Middle Tennessee under a storm watch and NWS-Jackson, Ky., has done the same for McCreary County and eastern Kentucky.

The winter storm watch for Middle Tennessee, including the western part of the plateau, calls for 3-6 inches of snow and sleet accumulation, with around a tenth of an inch of ice.

While some models have shifted the brunt of the frozen precipitation further west, it remains possible that we could see up to an inch of frozen precipitation here on the northern plateau. However, it also appears that much of that will fall in the form of sleet or freezing rain, which would eliminate high-end snow totals. There was a map from one of the TV meteorologists in the Knoxville market that got a lot of play on Facebook yesterday, indicating 4-7” of snow for the northern plateau. Rarely do I question the professionals who make their living at this sort of thing, but that map didn’t seem reasonable then and it certainly doesn’t seem reasonable today.

This morning’s run of the GFS computer model showed an inch of snow for the northern plateau, with 0.8” of sleet and 0.3” of ice (freezing rain). The next run of the same model a little later showed 0.4” of snow, 0.3” of sleet and 0.06” of ice. 

The NAM model, on the other hand, showed 0.3” of snow, 0.13” of sleet and 0.08” of ice for the northern plateau this morning. This afternoon’s run of the same model showed no snow, a half-inch of sleet and 0.2” of ice.

Cold air will be surging southeast as the precipitation moves through. The question is how quickly colder air will filter in. It’s probably a safe bet that the Cumberland Plateau is going to sufficiently block the cold air’s arrival to keep the wintry impact minimal in much of East Tennessee, with the best chances for all snow being to the northwest — particularly in southwestern Kentucky and the northwest corner of Tennessee. 

I think we can safely say that we aren’t going to see huge snow totals on the northern plateau. However, sleet can be very troublesome, even in relatively small amounts. An inch of sleet can result in roads that are slick for several days. The good news is that we aren’t likely to get an inch of sleet, and the good news is that it doesn’t appear that we’re likely to get enough freezing rain to cause significant damage like what we saw two weeks ago. But exactly how much sleet we’ll see remains to be seen. For that matter, how much freezing rain and snow we’ll see remains to be seen.

In any event, it looks like things will hold off until everyone is safely home Wednesday night. The evening commute will be fine and Wednesday evening church functions should be fine, too. It doesn’t look like the changeover to frozen precipitation will occur here on the northern plateau until sometime between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. tomorrow night.

At this point, I won’t be surprised if NWS-Morristown never issues a winter storm watch for the northern plateau and instead goes with a winter weather advisory tomorrow morning. But we’ll see.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, cold temperatures still appear a safe bet to end the week, with lows in the single digits by Friday morning. Temps could get as high as 40 Friday afternoon, but we aren’t going to see a substantial warmup anytime soon. We could see mid 50s by Tuesday, but anything warmer than that may have to wait for at least another week. The long-range GFS has been hinting at a warmup into the mid 60s by the middle of March, but it continues to shunt that warmup back, and there are also signs of another blast of cold air around the middle of March as well, so spring is going to continue taking its sweet time getting here.

When refs interrupt a good game

It was high stakes basketball in Harriman, Tenn., Friday afternoon, where Tennessee’s Region 2-A semifinals were being held. The games were elimination games; the winners moved on to the regional championship and the substate, guaranteeing themselves at least two more games and an opportunity to earn one of the coveted eight spots in the state tournament, while the losers’ seasons were finished.

Both games — the first featuring Oneida and Meigs County, and the second featuring Oliver Springs and Grace Christian — went to overtime before a winner was decided. On paper, that seems like an exciting night of basketball…the kind of basketball that is well-worth the price of admission for fans.

Unfortunately, the first of the two semifinal games was overshadowed by terrible officiating. And when I say terrible officiating, I mean officiating that was bad both ways. 

From the start of the game, the officials called ticky-tack foul after ticky-tack foul. By game’s end, 45 of them had been called. Six players had fouled out. Seventy — yes, 70 — free throws had been shot. The game, allotted an hour and 15 minutes, lasted the better part of two hours.

There was one team that clearly benefited from the excessive whistle-blowing. Meigs County trailed by as much as 19 points in the second half, but mounted a sterling comeback that was aided greatly by the free throw line. At one point early in the second half, Oneida had two different players on the bench with three fouls. Meigs County had a total of four team fouls for the game. At the time, with Oneida leading by 17 points, I noted that Meigs County was getting to the line far too often. 

As Meigs County moved into a full-court, pressing defense in the second half, the foul total began to even up somewhat due to the aggressive nature of the defense. Oneida began to earn its own trips to the line. But by the end of the game, the foul count still stood at nearly double — 29 whistled against Oneida; 16 whistled against Meigs County. Four Oneida players fouled out of the game. By the final minutes of overtime, all three of Oneida’s seniors had fouled out, able only to watch helplessly from the bench as the game progressed. 

That’s shameful. It’s shameful for both teams, who have put in countless hours dating back to last spring for an opportunity to advance to this point in the season, to have their efforts on the court overshadowed by referees who decide to put the game on their own shoulders instead of letting it play out. Traditionally, refereeing loosens up in Tennessee’s high school regional tournaments, with the officials “letting them play” more than in the regular season.

Obviously, that wasn’t the case Friday, and fans from both schools agreed that the officiating was just bad. A couple of Meigs County fans I talked to brought it up; one called it the worst officiating he had ever seen for a regional tournament game.

As the game progressed, I made a couple of statements on Twitter. One was that Meigs County didn’t deserve to win the game. Clearly that was a heat-of-the-moment statement that isn’t true. And I probably owe Meigs County an apology for that statement. I felt like deleting the tweet after I had time to think about it, but everyone had already seen it by that point. Coaches don’t control the officials, let alone 16-, 17-, and 18-year-old kids who are busting their rear ends to earn wins. Meigs trailed by 19 points with 14 minutes to play and won the game. That’s quite a feat; would be quite a feat even if the game were being officiated by a trio of circus monkeys. When Meigs County jumped into its pressing defense, Oneida wilted. The team lost its composure, lost its aggressiveness, and never recovered. Championship teams have to persevere — both against calls that aren’t going their way and against the other team’s pressure. Oneida was unable to do either, and that’s why the game was lost.

But free throws clearly aided Meigs County’s comeback. Would the team have been able to mount that amazing comeback if not for all the foul calls and the free throws? That argument is going to be shaped by whichever team you happened to have been rooting for, but the bottom line is there’s probably no way to know. Although we all love to gripe about officials (it is, after all, almost as much a part of the game as popcorn and nachos), I tend to believe that officials can very seldom change the outcome of a game.

One thing we do know, however, is that Meigs County earned a bunch of trips to the line. On a night when Meigs County’s shots weren’t falling (they shot 20 percent in the first half and 28 percent from the game) and Oneida’s were (they shot 58 percent for the game), players were bailed out with free throws. Oneida didn’t fare poorly from the line, shooting 17 of 21. That’s a pretty significant amount of points from the free throw line. But Meigs County smashed that mark, shooting 37 of 49 from the line. Forty-nine free throws in a single game! Forty-nine free throws in 36 minutes of action. That’s not a record for a high school game, I’m sure, but it’s the most free throws I’ve seen in a single game in the 14 years I’ve been covering high school basketball. 

And it made a difference. At one point in the second half, as the comeback mounted, Meigs County had scored 25 points. They had three field goals, and the rest of their points had come from the line. Unless one team is being overly-aggressive (Oneida wasn’t) or trying to intentionally foul (Oneida wasn’t), that’s despicable for a high school basketball game, especially one with such high stakes. Fifty-four percent of Meigs County’s scoring came at the free throw line.

Credit Meigs County for being the more aggressive team and getting to the line. Meigs was willing to drive the ball to the basket and draw those whistles; Oneida did not do as much of it on the other end. As Oneida broadcaster Tim Smith pointed out during his play-by-play call of the game, if Oneida takes that ball to the basket more often, it might get the same calls and the same free throw opportunities.

But fault the refs for being unwilling to swallow their whistles for what was often very little contact. 

The second statement I made last night was that the officiating crew had no business refereeing a high-stakes basketball game like that one. And I stand by that statement. 

Last year, TSSAA implemented a new policy prohibiting coaches from criticizing the officiating. Coaches who speak negatively of referees in interviews with reporters or other public settings are fined (more accurately, their school is fined). Like most sports journalists I know, I’ve been very critical of this rule. TSSAA has no business attempting to muzzle high school coaches. 

My take, though, is that TSSAA should focus on better training for officials rather than targeting coaches. Better training would reduce criticism. Obviously it wouldn’t silence it; referees are always an easy scapegoat when a game is lost. But it would strip a lot of the meat from the bones of that criticism. I won’t necessarily say that last night’s crew needed better training, but clearly there should have been more of an emphasis put on letting the game play out in live action rather than whistling every single foul and putting every senior in the game on the bench in the final game of their careers. That’s not fun basketball. 

Give Meigs County credit for one of the best comebacks I have ever seen in a high school basketball game. Most teams would have wilted when the 15-point halftime deficit grew to 19 in the third quarter. But Meigs County has a long and storied past, and it’s one that is instilled in its players. This team was one of Tennessee’s final four teams a year ago, and they won their district championship this year. They never panicked, even when the lead swelled to near 20. Instead, they maintained their composure, kept chopping away at the deficit, and played a swarming defense that caused Oneida to commit a bushel of uncharacteristic turnovers. 

And lest you think that this post is just sour grapes, my twitter timeline will stand as verification that I was criticizing the officiating even when Oneida was up by 17 and 19 points. I would have written this post even if Oneida had won the game; even if Oneida had won it by 20. 

Because regardless of who wins and who loses, basketball is not as much fun when the officials overly assert themselves and take over the game. It happens in every sport at every level from time to time, but it may never be more obvious or frequent than in a high school basketball game.

TSSAA may be able to muzzle its coaches. But as long as we’re seeing 45 fouls and 70 free throws in a high-stakes elimination game, it’s a good thing they can’t fine journalists. I would be in debt, because I’ll go on calling that kind of officiating shameful…shameful regardless of who wins or loses.

Another snow shot? It could happen

Three winter storms — and four rounds of snow — in 10 days, with record-breaking (for February) temperatures has made the last couple of weeks a winter nightmare across much of Tennessee.

But a warming trend begins this weekend, highs touching 70 degrees are likely by Tuesday, and thunderstorms are in the forecast for next week. Winter is over, right?

Wrong. 

Next week’s thunderstorms will be made possible by a cold front invading warm, moist air that will build into the region over the next several days, and that will set the stage for yet another arctic blast and yet another shot of snow for someone in the Mid-South.

There’s plenty of uncertainty about who should expect snow next week, and how much they should expect. Models are literally all over the board with the possibilities, but the scene appears to be set for a second wave of energy to develop after the cold front and heavy rains have passed, which will create the possibility of snow for someone somewhere in the South.

Taken verbatim, the 12z run of the GFS model today shows 3 inches of snow for the northern Cumberland Plateau — with another big snow (7+ inches) for the Chattanooga-to-Knoxville-to-TriCities corridor.

Yes, you read that right: the 12z GFS model shows another major winter storm for Chattanooga and Knoxville.

The 6z run of the same model earlier this morning showed much lesser amounts for all involved, but it did show some accumulating snow.

The bottom line is there’s no way to know right now where the potential snow will set up — or even if it will set up . . . or how much snow will fall for those who do see snow. It could be Memphis, it could be Nashville, it could be Knoxville. Or it could be someone in Arkansas, or someone in Kentucky. Or, again, it may not happen at all. (The GFS model is the only major global model showing significant snow in East Tennessee right now. The ECMWF, or European, is showing nothing, while the Canadian model is much further north and west with the potential system.)

But the possibility is there.

And every run of the GFS model today has brought back single digit temperatures for the northern plateau. A verbatim takeaway from the 6z GFS would see Crossville and Oneida dropping to 7 degrees next Thursday morning, with a high only in the low 20s Thursday afternoon and a low near 10 degrees on Friday morning. Temperatures on the GFS’s model output statistics aren’t quite as cold, but they’re weighted for climatology — which says temps should be much warmer than what the operational model is saying this time of year, and they’re still cold: a low of 16 Thursday morning and 17 Friday morning, with a high of 32 Thursday afternoon.

The good news is that this arctic blast appears to be short-lived. The GFS brings back temperatures in the 60s by days 9-12 — or around March 10. It’s much too soon to say that spring will truly arrive at that point, but the bottom line is to not be deceived by talk about temps in the 60s and 70s next week. It’s going to last about a day, and then it’s right back into the freezer. Winter isn’t over . . . not just yet.

Another misuse of executive power

The most dictatorial president America has known — at least in modern times — is at it again.

They got her

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Scott County has had enough of Ol’ Man Winter. The local sheriff’s department has arrested Elsa!

Gone hiking

Life is all about perspective, as Andy Lyon shows us through this Backpacker Magazine feature story:

His family, friends, and spiritual guide objected. But Andy had made up his mind. He was going to thrust himself into the heart of hardship and beauty to seize control of his fate and challenge his disease in a fight to the death. If he won, he’d be healed. If it killed him, that’d be an OK way to go. The only thing he couldn’t accept was waiting around to die.

Weather, hard-headed admins wreak havoc on postseason

A combination of relentless wintry weather and hard-headed school administrators have made life miserable for East Tennessee’s high school basketball players and coaches.

After the regional tournament schedule was shuffled to give teams an additional three days to complete their district tournaments — before TSSAA ultimately ruled Saturday that the district tournaments could be suspended without being completed — more headaches have ensued this week. 

Originally slated for Friday and Saturday, the regional quarterfinals were shoved back to Monday and Tuesday, with the semifinals set for Wednesday, the finals for Thursday and the substate games Friday and Saturday. That meant teams successful enough to get all the way to the substate would have to play four games in five days, including  three consecutive days (Wednesday-Friday for girls; Tuesday-Thursday for boys). 

TSSAA has since shuffled the schedule again, bumping the substate games to Monday and Tuesday, giving teams until Saturday (or, theoretically, Sunday, although Sunday games are a controversial issue) to finish up the regionals. But the leeway is now gone. The girls state tournament is slated to begin next Wednesday, meaning there’s no way to further delay the schedule. Because of the scheduling and logistics, it would be next to impossible to move or postpone the state tournament.

While the weather can’t be avoided, stubborn decisions by hard-headed school administrators certainly haven’t helped matters any.

It started on Monday, when Knox County Director of Schools Jim McIntyre declared that all girls regional quarterfinal games involving Knox County teams could not be played. The county has a policy that doesn’t allow extracurricular activities on days when schools are closed for weather or illness. However, most school districts relax those policies for postseason games, when everyone’s schedule is on a time crunch. 

McIntyre’s decision was met with furor . . . although much of it was whispered behind the scenes by coaches outside the district as a professional courtesy. The criticism was more prevalent on Twitter and other social media networks, where sports journalists in East Tennessee loudly criticized the Knox County decision.

Roads in Knox County were free of snow by Monday afternoon, though McIntyre cited slick sidewalks and parking lots as a reason for not allowing the games to be played.

While most coaches might have kept relatively quiet, not all of them could hold back. Heritage coach Bill Duncan, a former head coach at Scott High School, unloaded on McIntyre in today’s Maryville Daily Times:

“My frustration deals directly with the director of schools at Knox County,” Heritage coach Bill Duncan told The Daily Times. “That’s my frustration because he told them that they couldn’t play.

“So it took Heritage High School, first time in their school history to play for a district championship, it took that away from us. That’s frustration enough.”

Duncan told the newspaper that McIntyre’s decision was a selfish one: 

“That’s frustration enough, and it’s bitterness on my part,” Duncan added. “Because there’s no place for it. It’s ridiculous. Because that director, he only made a decision that concerned himself. There’s five other counties involved, I believe, in this mess. Why wasn’t there just a phone call and everyone talk together?

“It’s taking away an opportunity that our kids that are seniors will never get back again.”

Hamilton County (Chattanooga) made a similar call on Wednesday, not allowing its schools to play regional quarterfinal games.

As Advocate & Democrat (Monroe County) sports editor Gabriel Garcia said, “The snow left an inconvenience; the TSSAA and certain school admin(s) in this state left a smoldering ruin.”

The stakes are high. Real high. Before finally relenting and moving the girls substate games from Saturday to Monday, TSSAA told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the option of auto-seeding teams and suspending the unfinished region tournaments was on the table:

“We discussed our Plan B with the Knox County director of schools this morning, and we said we’d do everything in our power to help them play games,” Childress said. “But as of (Tuesday), the (sectional) games are still scheduled for Saturday. Our power stops with the Board (of Control). If we move the sectional game for one section that hasn’t played, we’ll have to have a conference call with the Board of Control.

“As the day has progressed, we have talked to enough of our board members to know they are not likely to do that. … They’re more inclined to say, ‘Well, if they really can’t play it, then that call has to be made.’ The kids have to be safe, but, and I can’t speak for the board, but speaking to board members, they would want regions to give us a No. 1 and No. 2, and say ‘You as administrators get in the room and decide who moves on.’ “

That’s where things stood Wednesday, when Oneida’s girls were loading the bus to head to Roane County, where they were set to face Meigs County in the Region 2-A semifinals. 

As the team got on the bus shortly before 2 p.m., the phone rang. Meigs County was backing out. No go. 

A contingency plan had been put into place the previous afternoon. With another winter storm set to threaten the area on Wednesday night, the game could be bumped from 4 p.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon if it appeared the weather would impact either team on the drive home. Both teams agreed to the plan. Then, on Wednesday morning, the teams agreed to go ahead with the game at 4 p.m. as planned.

But shortly before 2 p.m., Meigs County director of school Donald Roberts said the team could not travel because of the impending weather.

“The forecast hasn’t changed since this morning,” one person said after the decision. “If the teams could travel for a 4 p.m. game this morning when the decision was made to stick with that start time, why can’t they travel for a 4 p.m. game now?”

With a half-foot of snow in the forecast for Meigs County Wednesday night, it was apparent that no games would be played Thursday, either. That left Friday . . . if the roads were clear enough for Roberts to permit his team to travel. One day to get in two more games. You don’t need to be a math whiz to see the problems there.

As it turned out, TSSAA’s Board of Control voted later in the day to move the substate games back. But that still does not solve the problem. As of Thursday afternoon, coaches and players are still playing the waiting game. The Thursday games, as expected, have been postponed; even if the teams were willing to travel, Roane County would not allow its schools to be utilized for games, and Harriman High School is the host of this year’s Region 2-A Tournament. The new times are 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, with No. 2 Oneida facing No. 1 Meigs County in the first game, and No. 1 Oliver Springs facing No. 2 Grace Christian Academy in the second game.

But there’s no guarantee that the games will actually be played. Will school administrators allow it? Or will they continue to be hard-headed? 

If they don’t play Friday, that leaves Saturday and Sunday. Either the semifinals will have to be played on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday, or the region tournament will have to be suspended. 

While warmer temperatures left the main roads and even many secondary roads in good shape Thursday, no one can say for sure what will happen on Friday. There’s no logical reason games can’t be played. But many things that have unfolded over the last 10 days appear to have little basis in logic.

If, for some reason, the games can’t be played, someone is going to get the short end of the stick. It goes back to Childress’s comment to the News Sentinel. Either the region tournaments will be suspended in the semifinals and the higher-seeded teams will be automatically selected for the substate games, or the tournaments will be suspended before the championship game and teams will be paired for the substate based on seeding.

That’s a real fear for some Oneida fans. The team finished No. 2 in its district in the regular season, but defeated the regular season champion, Oliver Springs, in dramatic fashion in the season finale. Weather forced the suspension of the district tournament, preventing Oneida from earning a No. 1 seed for the region tournament and leaving the team as an automatic No. 2 seed. Meigs County, meanwhile, entered its district tournament as a No. 2 seed but upset top-seeded Grace Christian in the championship game to earn a No. 1 seed for the region tournament. 

Most folks think Meigs County will beat Oneida. But folks closest to the Oneida program see no logical reason why this team can’t earn itself one of the eight coveted berths in the state tournament. To do that, they have to beat Meigs County.

But if, for some weird reason, the two teams were to not play, Meigs County is the higher-seeded team. Guess which team would be auto-advanced? Here’s a hint: It’s not the team that was loading its bus on Wednesday, fully intent on driving to Harriman and playing the semifinal game.

All of that is theoretical, of course. There should be no reason why the two teams can’t play on Friday. But after the last week, no one is taking anything for granted.

Because, as Garcia said, the decisions of “certain school admins” have left behind a “smoldering ruin.”

That’s round 3!

Most of the northern Cumberland Plateau was blanketed in 4-6 inches of new snow overnight, according to the National Weather Service (I measure 3 inches of new snow in my back yard), making this over-achieving low pressure system the third legitimate winter storm to strike the northern Cumberland Plateau in a 10-day period. And, all-in-all, it’s the fourth fresh snowfall during that 10-day period.

That’s remarkable for the South any time of the year. To find the last time we had a streak of weather like this, you have to go all the way back to January 1985. But it’s especially remarkable in mid to late February. 

To put it in perspective, most of Scott County has recorded between 12-17 inches of snow, depending on exact location, since last Monday morning. Most of the county is on the upper end of that total. Since 1981, our average snow in February of any given year is 2.2 inches. In fact, since 1981, our average annual snowfall in Oneida is only 7.1 inches. Granted, that’s an average that’s fallen rapidly since the ’60s and ’70s were taken out of the rolling 30-year average (we received much less snow in the 1990s and 2000s), but we’ve still nearly doubled our annual snowfall average for 1981-2010 in the last 10 days alone. According to NWS records dating back to 1960, the highest snow total ever in a single year in Oneida was 25.6 inches, in 1984. We’ve gotten within eight inches of that total in the last 10 days alone. (I’m a little skeptical of that last record, but the NWS has it recorded as official, so we’ll roll with it.)

In Knoxville, the 14.4 inches of official snowfall this month marks the fourth snowiest February on record, and the three Februaries above it all occurred in the 1950s through the 1970s.

We’ve had several storms since 1985 that would surpass any single storm we have seen in the past 10 days. Obviously the Blizzard of ’93 would rank towards the top of that list, dumping around 18 inches of snow (officially) in Oneida, with massive drifts. The ice-to-snow storm of 1994 dumped around 10 inches, followed by an incredible blast of arctic air; power outages lasted for days. The dynamic cooling storm of 1998 dumped around 18 inches of completely unforcasted and surprise snow, going down as the most damaging winter storm in this region’s history and leaving most folks without power for the better part of a week — or longer. And there were a couple more 8-to-10-inch snows in the 1990s. But with the exception of the ’93 superstorm, which occurred in March, all of those storms occurred in January, and none of them were book-ended by other massive storms to create the prolonged period of wintry weather that we’ve seen this past 10 days.

In fact, the winter of 2010-2011, which ended the northern plateau’s relatively snowless drought that had been in place (with only a couple of exceptions) since that massive ’98 snowstorm, is the only winter we’ve seen in recent history with three bonafide winter storms in one winter. And, again, those storms occurred during the climatological height of winter . . . not in late February. One big snow occurred a couple of weeks before Christmas, another on Christmas morning and a third in early January.

King NAM: I was criticized by one meteorologist (and maybe more who just wouldn’t say it out loud) for putting projected snow totals from the NAM model on Twitter a couple of days ago. At the time, no one was forecasting major snow for most of East Tennessee. The official NWS forecast was for 20% snow chances. And those forecasts were for good reasons — there was no reason at the time to think that this storm would come far enough north to impact most of East Tennessee. It was about that time that the NAM model began to spit out big snow numbers that the rest of the global models began to show better snow chances for East Tennessee. 

But most of the other models were showing only an inch or two of snow accumulation for the northern plateau and a lot of the rest of East Tennessee. The NAM was showing between 6 and 7 inches of snow for both Crossville and Knoxville. 

As a general rule, I agree that it’s irresponsible to throw out a snow map generated by a single model run and lead folks to think that it’s a legitimate, reliable forecast. And goodness knows the internet is full of people who do this. They know just enough about weather to be dangerous, and they pick out the most dire scenario and cling to it. By doing so, they generate lots of page views. If it turns out to be right, they generate a perceived credibility and even more page views for the future. Even some professionals tend to lean this direction (here’s looking at ya, Joe Bastardi). 

Real meteorologists despise amateurs for this reason, and it’s hard to blame them. However, anyone who follows this blog knows that we simply throw out the gamut of possibilities. I have never claimed to be a weather expert and never will. But weather is a hobby, and I try to be as well-read as possible in that regard. As such, I’ve never viewed it damaging to put out what models are showing…but I do always include disclaimers that these are simply models with little to no human input, and a single run of a single model is hardly reliable. 

I said all that to come back to this: When I put those numbers out on Twitter, forecasts had yet to catch up to the model trends (which had just begun) and were primarily still showing only slight snow chances for the region. (By that afternoon, the NWS in Morristown had hoisted a winter storm watch for all of East Tennessee.) The NAM model was viewed as an extreme outlier (as I pointed out).

Yet it was a possibility that could not be dismissed, as I also pointed out. And I think we found out last night why you can’t dismiss those things. While the forecast for Knoxville and surrounding areas was somewhat in line with what the original NAM was showing, the forecast for the northern plateau was for much lighter snow amounts of 1-3 inches. While the NAM backed off those original snow totals, it came back around yesterday, painting general amounts of 4 inches for both Crossville and Knoxville. No other major model projected anywhere close to that.

Pattern change: The good news for the winter-weary is that a big change is on our hands. The forecasts of cold and snowy weather will shift to mild and stormy weather next week, and there isn’t another major snow chance on the horizon for the next couple of weeks — at least as things stand right now. Cold weather isn’t over, by any stretch. While we might hit 60 degrees early next week ahead of the next storm system, another blast of cold air is on tap for the end of the week, including more temperatures in the low teens — which is much below average for this time of year. Models have consistently depicted a blast of arctic air a week into March. But it looks like it will be short-lived, and the pattern after that could become a predominately mild/warm pattern, with 60-degree temps becoming more common than 30-degree daytime temps. I wouldn’t put too much faith in that right now, but it’s at least a possibility.

Posts on this page
  • A winter storm this way comes
  • Frank talk about paywalls
  • The storm of uncertainty
  • When refs interrupt a good game
  • Another snow shot? It could happen
  • Another misuse of executive power
  • They got her
  • Gone hiking
  • Weather, hard-headed admins wreak havoc on postseason
  • That's round 3!
Posts on this page
  • A winter storm this way comes
  • Frank talk about paywalls
  • The storm of uncertainty
  • When refs interrupt a good game
  • Another snow shot? It could happen
  • Another misuse of executive power
  • They got her
  • Gone hiking
  • Weather, hard-headed admins wreak havoc on postseason
  • That's round 3!