Forecasters say Scott County's biggest snow storm of the 2013-2014 winter season could be on the way later this afternoon and tonight.
Or, the snow storm may simply brush the northern Cumberland Plateau, leaving only minor accumulations in its wake.
Much forecast uncertainty remained Wednesday morning as a winter storm approached the region from the southwest. The northern plateau was scheduled to go under a winter weather advisory at 10 a.m. Wednesday and remain there until 7 a.m. Thursday morning. National Weather Services meteorologists called for one to four inches of snow accumulation by the time precipitation tapered off during the overnight hours.
The rest of East Tennessee, meanwhile, was under a winter storm warning, with forecasters calling for as much as nine inches in the northern valley north and east of Knoxville.
The day dawned with weather models showing the northern plateau on the fringe of where the heaviest snowfall was expected, leading to the uncertainty in the forecast.
The National Weather Service warned travelers to be prepared for snow-covered roads and limited visibilities across the northern plateau. "If you must travel, slow down and allow extra time to reach your destination," the agency said in its winter weather advisory.
The NWS in Nashville was also warning of inclement conditions in Fentress and Pickett counties.
"Expect slippery roads to develop," the NWS said in a forecast discussion Wednesday morning, "especially along untreated secondary highways. You can expect roads in the advisory area to likely become increasingly hazardous tonight as colder air comes in and re-freezes the melted snow."
Scott County schools were dismissing at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in an effort to beat the weather, while Oneida schools were sending students home at noon. While many school systems across East Tennessee preemptively closed on Wednesday, local school administrators said that going to school a half day will allow the systems to save one of their remaining snow days, yet still get students safely home before weather conditions deteriorate. Each system is allotted 13 days for bad weather, after which any day that is missed must be made up.
With temperatures rising into the 40s on Thursday, road conditions are expected to improve greatly before the end of the week.
Still, that did not stop coaches from worrying about the implications of the winter storm. The high school basketball postseason is underway across East Tennessee, with little leeway in the schedules for inclement weather. The District 4-A tournament began on Tuesday, with first round boys' games scheduled for Thursday. The District 4-AA tournament is scheduled to begin Thursday, with both Scott High teams in action. Oneida's girls are scheduled to play Friday and boys Saturday in Wartburg. However, a postponement of Thursday night's schedule would likewise mean adjustments for the weekend schedule.
Feb. 12 is a day with a history of winter storms along the northern plateau. In 2006, 7.5 inches of wet, sloppy snow fell across the area. In 1985, similar amounts of snow fell — a storm that impacted all of East Tennessee and resulted in two deaths.