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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.

Snow chances, where are you?

I know some of you teachers eternally wishing for another snow day scan these pages looking for snow updates and I apologize for the increasingly scant appearance of those updates. This winter has been a real bore. In addition to the token snow flurries with departing storm systems that we seem to see so much of in place of bonafide snows, there have been precious few “fantasy snowstorms” showing up on the horizon this winter. The ones that have popped up have fizzled out, obviously, as they do every winter, but this year they don’t seem to stick around even long enough for the snow hounds to get their hopes up.

It’s not all bad, though. Those backside snow flurries have actually created a number of snow days for educators and students . . . and occasionally they’ve even gotten the ground white enough to break up the monotonous grayscapes of winter. But for those of us whose lives aren’t dictated by 6 a.m. robocalls, who are still enough of a kid at heart to appreciate a good, solid snowstorm and who think all this stinkin’ cold air without snow to accompany it is a bit like peach cobbler without ice cream, this winter has been frustrating. 

Snowless winters are almost always frustrating for snow-lovers. We saw several of them in the 2000s, though it seemed that this decade was taking a turn for the better. But this one was hyped up by all the prognosticators back in the fall to be a very snowy winter. In fact, all those click-bait articles that were making the rounds on Facebook and other social media networks were touting it as a record-setting winter, with the kind of cold that would be devastating to large swaths of the U.S. populous. (Of course, there’s a lesson to be learned there. As I posted on Facebook repeatedly while those articles were making the rounds, there was nothing to suggest that this winter would be devastating and/or record-setting, and there was no way to know that far in advance. But that’s a blog post for another day.)

In any event, it isn’t out of the question that we could see some snowflakes flying late this weekend — in fact, it’s probably likely that we’ll see some snow in the air, but the idea of major accumulations seems to be a ship that has sailed.

The National Weather Service is currently forecasting a 70% chance of rain changing to snow after 10 p.m. Sunday night and a 30% chance of snow on Monday, with highs on Monday remaining below freezing and dropping into the teens Monday night before a quick warming trend kicks in on Tuesday. If you’re looking for a snow day, Monday is currently your best bet for the next couple of weeks. In fact, the NWS says in its area forecast discussion this morning that the potential exists for a couple of inches of accumulation, which would be enough to prompt a winter weather advisory if that winds up being the official forecast by the time Sunday rolls around, and it would also be the biggest snowfall this winter if it came to fruition.

But, frankly, if the GFS proves right, it’s going to be difficult to see that kind of accumulation outside the mountains of East Tennessee. The 12z GFS takes the low pressure center from the Ozarks to St. Louis and across Kentucky. With a track that far north, there simply isn’t going to be a lot of moisture left once the cold air can filter in behind the departing system, unless a secondary low forms . . . and, right now, the model isn’t depicting that. The models have struggled mightily with this system, so it’s reasonable to expect some changes between now and Sunday. But, by the same token, the models are now ingesting better data with the wave rapidly approaching, and their solutions are diverging on a consensus, so that window for change is growing smaller.

I will say that, for what it’s worth, the Cobb algorithm from the 12z run of the GFS depicts 0.3” of snow for the northern plateau as the system departs Monday morning, and the 6z GFS showed 0.4”. A small accumulation, but an accumulation nonetheless. The 12z NAM Cobb data also showed 0.4”.

In any event, as long as the NWS is projecting accumulation, I’ll side with them. They’re the pros, and they get paid to do what they do for a reason. 

Beyond Monday, the next chance for snow comes about one week from today. Again, the models are wild and all over the board with what’s going to happen with this particular system. The next system after that appears to be on tap for the Feb. 11 time frame, but a warmup is expected with that system, followed by the possibility of another blast of cold air just in time for Hallmark Day.

Ten for 2015

As January ever-so-slowly drags along towards February, it doesn’t seem like warm weather is ever going to arrive.

But today’s (surprisingly) mild temps were a pretty good preview of what’s not too far away, and it’s this time of year that I start planning out my itinerary for the upcoming spring and summer months. To that end, here are 10 trails I intend to hit in 2015:

1.) John Muir Trail — Big South Fork NRRA

I’ve hiked most of the JMT from Pickett State Park to Burnt Mill Bridge, but never at the same time. It’s been a goal of mine for sometime to hike the entire trail, in its entirety. This spring I’m going to bite the bullet and do it. The trail encompasses nearly 60 miles. I’m going to attempt to do it in four days — leaving on a Wednesday morning and completing my trip on Saturday evening. That’s going to be a bit of a push, but I can always bail out a few miles early if I run out of time on Saturday. My biggest concern is doing the hike solo, as there are a lot of things that can go wrong on the trail. But the good thing about the JMT is that you’re never truly that far away from a cell tower reception or an access road. My plan is to wait until the threat of extreme cold is behind us (although I’ve overnighted in 10-degree temps and my gear is fine for that, it’s not really my preference) but summer is still in the distance. No bugs, no snakes and no heat make early spring an ideal time to hit the trail . . . and frequent spring rains should mean the wilderness streams are flowing and drinking water is never too far away. That isn’t a bad thing. Maybe the end of March or the first of April.

2.) The Backwoods Way From Oneida to Robbins — Big South Fork NRRA

I did this hike last year, and I intend to do it at least once in the next few weeks. It’s mostly on the same John Muir Trail, but is also a patchwork hike that begins at my home and ends outside the Big South Fork NRRA in Robbins. It’s about 18 miles, which is a pretty good stroll for a single day. I did it in the spring of 2014 and was bushed by the time I finished. My goal this time is to do it better. If I succeed at that, I’ll do it again when the temperature warms and the river levels drop, ford the river in the backcountry and bushwhack new territory part of the way.

3.) King Snake Trail — Congaree National Park, S.C.

If everything goes according to plan, I intend to take a summer camping trip to Congaree National Park in central South Carolina. The fact that Congaree is home to one of the Southeast’s last remaining old-growth forests makes it a place I want to visit. The King Snake Trail, at 11.1 miles, is the longest trail in the park.

4.) The Virginia Creeper — Damascus, Va.

I did the Virginia Creeper two years ago and plan to go back this year — perhaps in the early fall if not in early spring. The Creeper is an all-downhill bike trail along an abandoned rail bed from high in the Appalachian Mountains to the former camp town (now a tiny tourist burg) of Damascus. The trail drops 2,000 ft. in elevation over the course of 17 miles — mostly through scenic wilderness but occasionally bisecting former mining encampments. An added bonus: Nearby is the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area — home to a herd of wild horses that keep the balds at the top of the Appalachian Mountains in their natural state.

5.) The Canyon — Big South Fork NRRA

Not all “trails” have to be physical trails, right? A water route counts, too, doesn’t it? I last did The Gorge and The Canyon sections of the Big South Fork River by boat about seven years ago. I haven’t been back since, but that is going to change this spring. Home to the infamous “Big 3″ rapids of The Ell, Double Drop and The Washing Machine, this stretch of continuous Class III and Class IV whitewater is the best the Big South Fork NRRA has to offer. Sadly, many life-long Scott Countians never see the stretch of river between the confluence of New River and Clear Fork River and the mouth of Pine Creek, where the historic O&W rail bed enters the gorge, unless they see it from the high vantage point of an overlook such as the Honey Creek Overlook. This stretch of river is quite unlike any of the rest of the river, which is very tame by comparison. By raft or by kayak, it’s a load of fun. And before the river drops to its summer pool, it needs to be floated.

6.) Cumberland Trail — Obed Wild & Scenic River, Tenn.

Sadly enough, I live 45 minutes from the Obed Wild & Scenic River near Wartburg, Tenn., and I’ve never hiked it. That changes this year. I’m going to hike the 14.2-mile section of the Cumberland Trail that treks through Catoosa Wildlife Management Area and the Obed, hopefully as a day-trip.

7.) Chimney Tops — Frozen Head State Park, Tenn.

Likewise, I’ve never hiked Frozen Head State Park, although I’ve been there often and consider it Tennessee’s most scenic state park. There are 80 miles of hiking trails there in all, including a segment of the Cumberland Trail as it snakes its way across the Cumberland Mountains from Obed Wild & Scenic River to Smokey Creek in eastern Scott County. My trail of choice is Chimney Tops to Frozen Head itself — the second-highest peak in the Cumberland Mountains, with panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains, Waldens Ridge (where the Tennessee Valley meets the Cumberland Plateau) and everything in between.

8.) Kentucky Trail — Big South Fork NRRA

On the Kentucky side of the Big South Fork NRRA, a 34-mile loop trail is one of the lesser-known mountain bike trails in this 125,000-acre national park. Connecting the pristine wilderness area known as No Business to the Ledbetter trailhead and Peter’s Mountain on the Kentucky side and areas such as Terry Cemetery and Gobbler’s Knob on the Tennessee side, this trail will be quite a haul . . . but there’s a shortcut that cuts the distance nearly in half.

9.) My Own Way — Big South Fork NRRA

Sometimes, the wilderness is best discovered the way Daniel Boone and Louis & Clark discovered it — by charting your own course. Several years ago, while bushwhacking extremely rugged terrain along a stream in a remote section of the Big South Fork, I came upon an axle and wheels from an old mine cart that had been placed in the fork of a tree, and the tree had grown around it over time. There was sign of human activity in this particular area; an old fence nearby at the base of a gap in the bluff line was apparently used to box in pigs beneath the bluffs. But there was no thoroughfare out of the area, and no sign of homesteads, and it stands to reason that a mine cart would have had no business in that particular area unless there was a mine there. The National Park Service recently completed a project to seal off all the deep mines that remained open inside the BSF, but there’s no record of a mine in this particular area. Could there be a forgotten mine there? Seems unlikely, but this is exactly the sort of thing I enjoy exploring in the places few others care to travel because of the difficulty involved in getting there, and I intend to discover the rest of the story . . . or, if there’s no story to be found that involves a mine cart axle in a tree, maybe I’ll make one up.

10.) The Zion Narrows — Zion National Park, Utah

Okay, I’m kidding. This one won’t happen this year, and maybe not for a good many years. But a fella can dream, can’t he? This hike is definitely at the top of my bucket list.

Bike riders object to new WMA user fees

Part of the now-approved increases to Tennessee’s hunting and fishing licenses includes new fees for usage groups on TWRA-managed properties. And Knoxville bike riders aren’t impressed (neither, apparently, is Knoxville’s new independent newspaper):

Unless local biking boosters work out a deal, it’s about to get a lot more expensive for cyclists to take advantage of the much-touted South Loop trail in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

The 12.5-mile trail, and its 40 miles of secondary trails, is helping make Knoxville a regional destination for mountain bikers. Last week, however, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission approved requiring a “high impact conservation permit” for mountain biking, horseback riding and ATV riding on the state’s wildlife management areas.

A week later, no one at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) could verify the exact amount that the board had approved.

The fee will be $12.50 for one day of wildlife management area access, or $61 for an annual pass.

For out-of-state visitors, that cost jumps to about $30.50 for a day or $191 for a year. These fees will be by far the highest of the few Southeastern states that charge for such usage of wildlife management areas. Agency officials did not respond to questions about how the amount of the permit cost was picked.

Bike riders, welcome to our problem. — Signed, the hunters and anglers of the State of Tennessee.

Are the fees for biking too much? Absolutely. Undoubtedly, those would be the highest fees for riding a bike on public property that you could find anywhere in America.

But, then, the fees hunters and anglers pay in Tennessee is also now the highest you’ll find just about anywhere in America.

And while anyone who has read what I’ve had to say on the subject knows I’m not a big fan of the license increase, the simple fact remains that as one of America’s very few states where funds from the public tax coffers aren’t used to manage wildlife or wildlife-managed properties, this is the cross we bear.

In a perfect world, Tennessee’s taxpayers would contribute to the costs of managing Tennessee’s wildlife and wildlife management areas, as I opined previously. But until that day comes, all of us who use those wildlife management areas should bear that cross together.

For years, cyclists, horseback riders, ATV riders and others have used Tennessee’s wildlife management areas without footing any of the bill. One hundred percent of the funds to purchase, maintain, upgrade and police WMAs comes from TWRA’s coffers. And 90 percent of the money in TWRA’s coffers comes from hunters and anglers. In other words, virtually 100 percent of the funds used to purchase, upgrade, maintain and police WMAs is paid by hunters. 

It is completely unfair to expect hunters to be saddled with another cost increase — bringing the sportsman license to roughly $160 per year for residents — while still allowing non-hunters to use the WMAs free-of-charge. And while the fees for cyclists (and others) on these WMAs is admittedly steep, it isn’t anything Tennessee’s hunters and anglers aren’t already accustomed to. 

Biking clubs point out through the story that they have poured tens of thousands of dollars, in addition to man-hours, into developing trails on these WMAs, and that’s commendable. But hunters, through organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Nature Conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, among others (including Ducks Unlimited and Quail Unlimited) also pour tens of thousands of dollars into purchasing and improving Tennessee’s wildlife management areas. Simply being a member of the NWTF and paying our membership dues doesn’t give us free access to the North Cumberland WMA (which was purchased partially due to NWTF contributions), so neither should belonging to a bike club give cyclists free use of Forks of the River WMA. 

The only area I would take exception to the new fees is this: If I purchase my hunting license and associated permits to hunt the WMA, I should not have to purchase another permit to ride my bike there. 

Aside from that, all of us who use the WMAs need to bear this burden of high usage fees together.

The sum of all fears

God made laptops for a reason.

God also made brains to give man good sense, but I rarely put mine to use — which probably explains why I had my 27-in. iMac setting on the nightstand by my bed while I put the finishing touches on the weekly newspaper, instead of using my much-more-convenient laptop as the Good Lord intended.

Every time sickness makes the rounds in my house, I pray that it doesn’t hit me on a Monday. In this business, everything else goes on hold one day each week. On deadline day, it’s all-hands-on-deck, and nothing else comes first — including sickness. My kids were born in the middle of a newspaper deadline and I literally raced from Knoxville to Oneida to put the final touches on the newspaper and then back to Knoxville just in time to see them make their grand entrance into the world. I dread the day when I have to beg St. Peter for understanding and a few more hours as I put the newspaper to bed before exiting this ol’ world once and for all.

So when the flu showed up — first in my daughter, on a Thursday, and then in my son, on a Friday — I instinctively knew that the timing would damn me. When Monday arrived and I was feeling okay, I breathed a sigh of relief. But, then — out of the blue — Mr. Flu caught me unaware with a pile driver straight to the mat. I didn’t see it coming, and I was down for the count.

And in addition to the typical body-aches-high-fever-chills-muscle-aches-even-your-hair-hurts symptoms, this year’s flu bug seems to impact a lot of people with the symptoms we often refer to as “stomach flu” as well. That just seems cruel. As a self-acknowledged emetophobe, the one thing I fear worse than the flu is stomach flu. To have the symptoms of both at the same time is a true nightmare . . . a nightmare long-awaited. In fact, there’s only one person I know who fears upchucking more than I do (don’t worry, Tim, I didn’t tell ‘em it is you).

My friends make fun of my emetophobia, because I haven’t vomited since I was a kid. Well, hadn’t, anyway. I’ve had stomach flu plenty of times, in all its glory, but have usually been spared the grossest symptom of the illness. And so I always explained to them that I’m especially afraid because I figure I’ve been storing up for 25 years.

I learned something that night: upchucking is a lot like riding a bike . . . once you’ve done it, you never forget how. Even if it has been 25 years. That tell-tale OH NO GET READY HERE IT COMES tingling on either side of the tongue brings memories flooding back — memories of being five years old and cruelly awoken in the middle of the night with the 10 steps between your bedroom door and the bathroom door seeming like a half-marathon course, memories of throwing up on the shoes of the prettiest girl in first grade, memories of the sawdust that the school janitors always used to magically make piles of puke turn into something that a broom and dustpan could dispose of.

In between arguments with my 27-in. bedside Mac — for some reason Photoshop and InDesign publishing software doesn’t seem to work quite right when you’re dizzy and feeling like your stomach is an exercise wheel for a thousand hamsters — I prayed. First I prayed for God to spare me, then I prayed for his undeserved mercy and, at some point, I’m pretty sure I prayed for him to call me on home. I also recall looking for my phone at one point so I could make a call and quit my job. But a lot of those details are pretty fuzzy.

One thing that wasn’t fuzzy was my trips to bow before the porcelain throne. Oh, those were crystal clear. And, each time, I found myself wondering why it can’t be as graceful as they make it look on TV.

“In the movies,” someone steps to the toilet, politely tosses his cookies, wipes his mouth with a towel, maybe gurgles some Listerine, and is on his way. In real life, you’re clinging white-knuckled to the sides of the toilet — like an old-school Baptist minister grasping the pulpit amid a fiery sermon — with liquid coming from every orifice above your neck (and, if you’re lucky, none below) as you make noises roughly resembling a herd of mating rhinoceroses. You’re simultaneously afraid that you’ll die and hoping you will.

I realize this is old news to most of you but, keep in mind, I hadn’t barfed since I learned to write cursive. So it was certainly an eye-opening experience for me.

As was the Mac-by-the-bed. In fact, I think I’ll keep it there. That 27-in. retina display sure beats the heck out of an iPad for late-night Netflix.

‘Deflategate’ proves win-at-all-cost mentality

My newspaper column this week: 

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us — the one Sunday each year when millions of Americans will play hookie from church to gorge on food and sit riveted to their TVs . . . even if they don’t have a rooting interest in the game, if just to watch the pregame and halftime festivities and to catch the super-priced commercials.

This year, though, the pregame talk isn’t about the game itself, but “Deflategate,” as pundits have tagged the New England Patriots’ ball-deflating controversy in the AFC Championship Game.

After the Indianapolis Colts raised suspicions of deflated game balls during their game with the Patriots, the NFL determined that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls were significantly under-inflated, a violation of league rules.

Exactly who ordered the balls to be deflated remains a matter of suspicion; all the chiefs on the Patriots’ reservation deny wrongdoing. But, clearly, the game balls were purposely deflated — making them easier to catch and grip.

And although the pundits feign surprise, Deflategate isn’t much of a surprise at all.

In a society where sports trump all else in matters of importance, the win-at-any-cost approach causes even good and decent men to set aside integrity when competition is on the line.

That’s what drove a man who would otherwise be viewed as one of the best two or three coaches in the history of college football — Joe Paterno — to be involved in a massive coverup as his long-time defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, raped multiple young boys . . . often on the Penn State campus; inside the Nittany Lions’ football facilities. It’s also what is driving the NCAA to consider a settlement that will restore all of Paterno’s wins that were ordered vacated as a result of the scandal, which would posthumously return him to his status as the game’s all-time winningest coach.

It’s what drove a corrupt University of Miami booster to provide millions of dollars in impermissible benefits to the school’s football and basketball players — and the school’s coaches to turn their heads to the unlawful activity.

It’s what drove former University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl to host a recruit at an impermissible barbecue at his Knoxville home — and then complicate matters by lying to NCAA investigators about what otherwise would have been a minor violation, resulting in his termination at Tennessee and a three-year ban from coaching. And, if current UT basketball coach Donnie Tyndall is proved to be implicitly involved with the current scandal at the University of Southern Miss, that will mean he’s committed NCAA infractions at his last two stops ­— for the same win-at-all-costs reason.

It’s what drove the University of North Carolina’s academic fraud scandal, what caused talented runningback Reggie Bush to forfeit his Heisman Trophy, and what drives other sports scandals that are swept under the rug or otherwise manage to never see the light of day.

It’s what caused the New Orleans Saints to implement a bounty system that paid defensive players money for injuring their opponents and resulted in a one-year suspension for head coach Sean Payton.

And it’s what caused these same New England Patriots to secretly record opposing teams’ defensive signals in the early 2000s, leading to a maximum fine of $500,000 for coach Bill Belichick and a forfeited draft pick.

It’s also what leads us, as fans, to vehemently defend our teams in the face of allegations of wrong-doing. Let someone bark and we automatically adopt a shoot-the-messenger mentality. When former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer blew the whistle on NCAA violations that were occuring at Alabama, resulting in major sanctions against the powerhouse program, enraged Crimson Tide fans engrained in the state’s legal system spent years attempting to subpoena Fulmer as part of a payback scheme.

When Pearl’s three-year “show cause” penalty ended last year, many Tennessee fans were chanting the “Bring Back Bruce” refrain, calling for Tennessee to overlook his past transgressions and rehire him — and I was one of them.

And when Sports Illustrated writer Michael Rosenberg penned a column last week detailing New England’s sordid history of bending and breaking the rules, Patriots fans responded with such vile that it would probably be wise for Rosenberg to not show his face publicly in Boston.

The bottom line is that the Patriots didn’t need to deflate their balls to beat the Colts. The final score was 45-7, after all. In fact, the score was only 17-7 at halftime, when attention was called to the improper balls and the situation was seemingly corrected, and then the Patriots responded with 28 unanswered points in the second half.

But whether they needed to cheat or not, they still cheated. And that isn’t surprising. In today’s sports culture, it’s just part of the win-at-all-costs mentality.

And it’s a mentality that we facilitate as fans, which will be evidenced by the fact that we’ll still tune in by the millions on Sunday evening to see who wins Super Bowl XLIX.

NFL has its Deflategate culprit

Good news, football fans! The NFL has found the bad guy who slips around deflating footballs. And it’s a glorified ballboy

Allegedly, the locker room attendant took the New England Patriots’ footballs to “another area” before they made their way onto the field for the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. A surveillance video reportedly exists, which Pro Football Talk says was discovered by the Patriots and turned over to the the NFL.

The only question is whether the locker room attendant willingly fell on the sword to protect Belichick and Brady or if he was thrown under the bus by the franchise.

Patriots don’t fumble. Coincidence?

Undoubtedly, the New England Patriots are a consistently great football team, with a good coach. And great football teams with good coaches tend to fumble less than other teams. It’s part of what makes them consistently good and great.

But in the wake of Deflategate, takes a look at the numbers and jumps to the only obvious conclusion: Stats don’t lie.

As the story points out, the Patriots have the least fumbles of any NFL team since 2007, and their current 5-year average of a fumble lost every 187 plays dwarfs the next-highest team on the list, the Indianapolis Colts, who lost a fumble every 156 plays from 2006 through 2010.

But here’s the even bigger takeaway: When you look at Slate’s list of top 10 teams by least fumbles per 5-year average, the list is dominated by teams that play in a domed stadium. The Colts and Texans are dome teams, which means they play at least eight games per year out of the elements — and it’s a well-known fact that cold, rain and snow enhance fumbles. When you look at the list, it’s dominated by domed teams outside the Patriots. The Pats do not play in a domed stadium. And the closest non-domed-stadium team behind them on the list? The Jets, at 135 plays per fumble lost from 2006 to 2010. 

Another snow chance for weekend

Another light snowfall caused a few minor problems along the northern Cumberland Plateau Monday night into Tuesday morning, but the region still has not seen a snowfall greater than an inch this winter season, and we’re now moving out of the best time — climatologically speaking — for snow. Of course, major winter storms can and have happened in February and March, but thus far there really hasn’t been much to indicate a major change in the pattern that has dominated our winter thus far.

But there is another chance for snow this weekend, although it currently appears that this one will be little more than another nuisance snow, much like the ones we’ve already seen.

This potential storm system has been locked in by the models for a couple of weeks, but there’s still very little consistency among them. Early on, the GFS was consistently depicting this system as a major storm system for the Mid-South. At one point, the GFS showed more than a foot of snow followed by near-zero temperatures. Obviously that was an extreme and unlikely solution. The models — both the GFS and the ECMWF — eventually converged on a solution that would track the surface low pressure over Middle Tennessee and towards the Great Lakes region, which would result in a rainy situation for us, with the possibility of some light snow on the backside.

This morning’s 0z GFS depicted a similar scenario: the center of the low pressure tracked from Memphis to Louisville to Philadelphia, with crashing temperatures on the backside of the storm but only enough remnant moisture for light snow. The 12z run of the model this afternoon, however, was very much different. The storm never fully develops, which results in a more southern track. In this scenario, the system would track much further south, but dump only very light moisture. Verbatim, the model depicts temperatures in the snow-growth region of the atmosphere that are supportive for snowfall, and enough moisture for a couple of inches of accumulation here along the northern plateau, but surface temps would be above freezing much of the time.

Given the model discrepancies on this one, there may not be a clear picture of what to expect until the energy that will create this storm is actually onshore and being sampled more thoroughly. But given the lack of blocking in the AO and NAO regions, it seems unlikely that this turns into a classic Miller A solution that would dump significant snow in our neck of the woods.

For now, the National Weather Service at Morristown is forecasting rain on Sunday, with rain and snow Sunday night and snow Monday.

In the meantime, major storm systems appear to be on the table in the timeframes of Feb. 5, Feb. 10 and Feb. 14. With better cooperation from the major teleconnections that help steer the broad upper air pattern over North America, any of those three could turn into a winter storm for our region . . . but, currently, those teleconnections remain a train wreck if you’re a fan of snowy weather. For now, it looks like rain-to-snow scenarios, with light nuisance snows on the backend, remain the best chance for wintry weather in the Mid-South.

This isn’t ISIS

Football fans, you can all rest easier about the New England Patriots and their role in Deflategate. Quarterback Tom Brady says it’s no big deal.

Because, you know, this isn’t ISIS:

“This isn’t ISIS, this isn’t, you know, no one’s dying,” Brady said. “But you know, we’ll get through this and hopefully we can really start preparing for Seattle and, you know, get our mind focused there, because they’re going to take, you know, all my mental energy for the next 10 days.”

You see, Brady has his head screwed on straight. He has his priorities in order. He knows that sports aren’t life. There are more important things to worry about. 

So as long as an NFL player isn’t pulling a gun out of his sock and gunning down his competition on the field, the rest of us should just get over it. 

Sports are just sports.

That probably explains why NFL commish Roger Goodell went so easy on Ray Rice for punching out his girlfriend in an elevator. It wasn’t ISIS. No one died.

Maybe that’s why the NCAA is considering a deal that would give back all of Joe Paterno’s vacated wins as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, which would posthumously return Paterno to his pedestal as college football’s all-time winningest coach. I mean, sure, Paterno knew that Sandusky was raping boys and did nothing about it . . . but, hell, it isn’t like he hung somebody. Nobody died.

Perhaps Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll should call the NCAA and tell them they want their Heisman and national championship trophies back. It isn’t like anybody died.

While we’re at it, University of Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart needs to get on the horn with the NCAA and inform them that Donnie Tyndall isn’t ISIS, either, so they can back off those alleged infractions that occurred under Tyndall’s watch at Southern Miss. 

Nobody died at Southern Miss, did they? 

This explains why Urban Meyer is treated with kid gloves by the media for overseeing one of the most lawless teams in modern NCAA football history, including former NFL player (from the Patriots, incidentally) Aaron Hernandez. It wasn’t ISIS. No one died.

Oh, wait. Hernandez did kill two people. Never mind.

In the same press conference, Brady bemoaned the fact that Deflategate is tainting the Patriots’ AFC championship, saying he hates that the incident is taking away from the Patriots’ accomplishments.

Here’s a newsflash for ya, Tom: Don’t cheat, and your accomplishments won’t be tainted. 

Seems pretty simple to me.

Update: Snow chances incoming

UPDATE: Today’s 18z run of the GFS continues to hammer the state of Tennessee on Super Bowl Sunday. A verbatim take-away from this particular run would be more than a foot of snow for the northern Cumberland Plateau, followed by plunging temperatures (in the teens on Monday and Tuesday after the Super Bowl, bottoming out at 1 degree Tuesday morning). That just seems unlikely, if for no reason than storms like that are very rare in this part of the world (plenty of other reasons why it seems unlikely, too, but that’s a post for another day). Still, the GFS has been pretty darned consistent with this storm. I’m not going to be surprised when the model loses the storm, but it bears watching.

The original post follows . . .

Two chances for accumulating snow present themselves to the northern Cumberland Plateau over the next four days. The more detailed previous post is here.

There is still a lot about the system that will impact our region tomorrow that is left to speculation, and even more about the clipper system that will follow on Sunday. It’s still possible that we could see accumulating snow with both of these systems, but the chances of significant accumulation — which were low to begin with — are gradually decreasing.

A winter weather advisory has been issued for the North Carolina side of the mountains, but there are no advisories for East Tennessee . . . at least not yet. The National Weather Service’s Morristown weather field office is currently forecasting around an inch of snow for the Plateau tomorrow night as colder air filters in behind the departing storm system and changes rain over to snow. That forecast comes in the form of a special weather statement. The zone forecast from NWS doesn’t call for the rain-to-snow transition to take place tomorrow night until 4 a.m. Precipitation could start as snow tomorrow morning before transitioning to rain, but accumulation shouldn’t be an issue.

Bottom line: an inch or two of wet, slushy snow is possible tomorrow night. It shouldn’t create much in the way of road hazards. Ground temperatures are warm after a week of mild temps, and temperatures won’t drop much below freezing — if at all — Friday night.

The next system moves in for the weekend, and temperatures are again an issue. The NWS is currently forecasting rain Sunday night, followed by rain and snow Monday and finally transitioning to all snow Monday night as colder temperatures filter in. This is a clipper system, coming from the northwest, and northern stream systems are notoriously moisture-starved. This is a rather robust system, as clipper systems go, but it’ll be interesting to see if enough moisture can be squeezed out for accumulating snow before the system departs. Models have generally been trending further north and weaker with this system, which decreases the chances for accumulating snow.

So the easiest way to sum it up is that confidence is lower that snow will accumulate along the northern Cumberland Plateau than it was 24 hours ago. These types of systems do well when there is a good cold air source to tap, but in this case there isn’t. With a stronger pool of arctic air lurking just to our north, we could have seen a solid thump of snow tomorrow, followed by colder temperatures and another thump of snow on top of that from the clipper system on Monday. As it stands, any snow accumulation Friday night should be meager, and temperatures on Saturday will guarantee that it’s quickly gone, followed by more marginal temps as the next system moves in Sunday night into Monday.

Beyond that, there’s nothing showing up next week to get excited about if you like winter weather, and there’s a possibility that our snowless stretch (as far as accumulating snow is concerned) may continue into Super Bowl weekend. That’s when things could get interesting. Models have for days been depicting a fairly major winter storm for the Mid-South the first couple of days of February, and it’s still there on the latest model runs. Today’s 12z run of the GFS model depicts a major snowstorm for almost all of Tennessee, with a half-foot of snow for the northern plateau. I wouldn’t bank on that, but there is a chance of a winter storm impacting the region as we head into Super Bowl weekend. It’s something to keep an eye on, anyway.

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  • 'Deflategate' proves win-at-all-cost mentality
  • NFL has its Deflategate culprit
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