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Athens essential employees help others, oversee burials and provide services during winter event

ATHENS — During this winter weather event, many families have found time to go sledding, make snowmen and share meals.

Essential employees in numerous jobs from healthcare to transportation have worked through frigid temps and icy conditions to provide services.

For example, essential employees with the city of Athens have spent time helping those stuck in ice, responding to emergency calls, overseeing burials, fixing water mains, restoring power and grading and sanding streets. 

“Myself, the City Council and many citizens have expressed appreciation for these employees,” Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “Their dedication and hard work have ensured services were provided to our citizens, and that services continue to be provided.”

Here’s a brief summary of some of their efforts:

Street Department

  • Assisted about 50 motorists with stuck vehicles. 
  • Used about 200 tons of sand on hills, bridges, U.S. 31 and U.S. 72 ramps, and around first responder facilities and parking lots. 
  • Graded various streets and removed layers of packed snow and ice.

“We want to thank Flanagan’s and Persell Lumber for supplying us with the sand as we had to treat some areas more than once,” Street Department Director Dolph Bradford said.

Athens Police

  • Responded to 25 wrecks since Sunday. Most were one-vehicle wrecks where cars slid off the road. 
  • Assisted 46 motorists who needed a push through an intersection to get moving or a push to get their vehicles unstuck.
Officer Bobby Hand sleds with children this week at Piney Creek. (City of Athens Facebook)

“We’ve also had officers stop to interact with kids playing outside. Officer Bobby Hand went sledding with some kids at Piney Creek, and the kids and parents appreciated that,” Chief Anthony Pressnell said.

Athens Fire

  • Answered 30 calls since Tuesday morning.
  • Responded to 10 wrecks in addition to medical calls, fire alarms and a few busted pipes in sprinkler systems. 


  • Restored power to 5,400 customers during a peak demand timeframe, mainly the morning of Jan. 17. Most of the outages occurred between 6-8 a.m., and crews restored power by 11 a.m. to all but 187 customers scattered across 32 separate outages. TVA reported peak demand that morning for its system was 34,526 megawatts, setting an all-time TVA record.
  • Restored power to a few single outages Wednesday, Thursday and today.
  • Dispatchers answered numerous calls throughout the day and night after a train snagged the phone line that handled the automated reporting system.
Water Services crew works on a water main break. (City of Athens Facebook)

Water Services

  • Worked on five water main breaks including two today. Some of the incidents required employees to stand in water to fix the issue.

“They have boots and hip waders, but that is still a cold job in these kinds of temperatures,” Water Services Manager Jimmy Junkin said. 


  • Will have completed four burials for families by this week’s end.

“The packed snow and ice make it difficult to locate the correct plots to dig so I commend our guys for doing a great job,” CPR Director Bert Bradford said.


  • Started picking up some commercial trash today, and has been preparing for extra hours and routes next week to collect recycling and trash that has accumulated during the weather event.

Other departments such as IT and various administrative offices have worked as needed to respond to issues and provide services.

“You’ll always get advice or complaints on how to do things differently or better, but overall people appreciate the work our employees do during difficult circumstances,” Marks said. “They cannot be thanked enough for working in these conditions.”

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