‘Snowfighters’ keeping eye on, prepping for potential Christmas Eve storm

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Department of Highways is activating its road crew ‘snowfighters’ Thursday to battle an advancing winter storm.

The National Weather Service predicts widespread rain will change to snow Thursday afternoon with temperatures dropping below freezing by nightfall. As much as 2 to 5 inches of snow is expected to blanket the region overnight into Christmas day.

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Currently, state highway crews in Bath, Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Fleming, Greenup, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, and Rowan counties are prepping snow plows and salt trucks. Because the storm is expected to start with rain, no pretreatment with brine will take place as it would wash off roadways before the snow.

Thursday, crews plan to begin 12-hour winter duty shifts at noon to patrol highways, and treat them with salt or clear snowfall as needed. A second shift will report at midnight and work overnight into Christmas day.

While plow crews will work around the clock to clear highways, low temperatures in the teens will likely create slick travel conditions through Friday.

District 7 forces will report at 8 a.m. Thursday to patrol, and treat routes as necessary. Contract trucks will supplement state forces to ensure that roads are in the best possible condition. The forecast for Central Kentucky includes rain with a snow mix for Thursday.

District 7 includes: Anderson, Bourbon, Boyle, Clark, Fayette, Garrard, Jessamine, Madison, Mercer, Montgomery, Scott, and Woodford Counties

Avoid nonessential travel if conditions are dangerous.

  • Check the forecast and plan ahead for your trip.
  • Make sure your vehicle is sufficiently winterized – check the battery, antifreeze level, heater, defroster, wipers and windshield washer.
  • Dress warmly for the weather in layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, in anticipation of unexpected emergencies.
  • Try to keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to prevent fuel line freezing and in preparation for possible lengthy delays on the roadway.
  • Make sure a friend or relative is aware of your travel route.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • Make sure your vehicle has an emergency care kit. It should include jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, an ice scraper, blankets, nonperishable food, a first aid kit, and traction material.
  • Drive carefully. Allow plenty of time to get to your destination. Do not use cruise control.
  • Give a wide berth to snow removal equipment.
  • Bridges and exit and entrance ramps can be icy when other areas are not.
  • Stopping in snow requires more braking distance than stopping on dry pavement up to four times more distance. Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead.
  • Be visible. Dull, cloudy days reduce visibility – drive using low-beam headlights.
  • Steer into the skid. Stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go.

Visit this link for information about state snow removal efforts: http://snowky.ky.gov

Motorists who must travel should be prepared buckle up, take it slow, and leave a space cushion between vehicles for safe maneuverability. Motorists should also note that with this storm:

  • Quickly falling temperatures Thursday could cause flash freezing of wet roadways. And, high winds could cause bridges and overpasses to freeze before roadways.
  • At low temperatures as low as 15 degrees in some areas Thursday night salt is not as effective. Slick spots and snow-covered pavement could remain, even on salt-treated roadways, through Friday.

During winter storm operations, Kentucky Department of Highways District 9 crews work 12-hour shifts using more than 75 snow plows and other equipment to keep 2,000 miles of northeast Kentucky state highways passable. Roadways are treated on a priority basis, with heavily-traveled and emergency routes treated first.

The District 6 snow and ice removal crews will report to duty in the early morning hours Thursday for the next winter weather event for the Northern Kentucky area. Depending on location, crews will report between 6 and 7 a.m. The National Weather Service advises that rain is expected to change to a Christmas Eve morning wintery mix.

District 6 snowfighters will mobilize ahead of the storm to treat state roads and interstates. Crews will focus on bridges, overpasses and higher elevated roadways that would be more prone to freezing. Some accumulation could be seen in the northern Kentucky counties.

District 6 starts out with 31,350 tons of salt each winter season stored in the domes located at the state maintenance facilities. There are 135 trucks available to treat state highways and interstates.

Maintenance crews in KYTC District 6 have responsibility for clearing over 2,000 miles of state-maintained highways in the counties of Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Harrison, Kenton, Owen, Pendleton and Robertson. That equates to 4,670 lane miles all driving lanes from rural state roads to interstate highways. District 6 state maintenance crews are prepared to work to keep roads in the best possible condition during winter weather.

In the Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Kenton and Campbell, District 6 is responsible for 1,868 lane miles of roadway.

Crews have stockpiled 16,500 tons of salt and over 26,000 gallons of brine for de-icing in the three counties. Seventy-five trucks are available for snow and ice removal three of which will concentrate on the six-mile section of I-75 between Buttermilk Pike and the Brent Spence Bridge that includes the Cut in the Hill.

When snowstorms hit, crews in affected counties are assigned 12-hour shifts to plow and treat state roadways on a priority basis part of the Transportation Cabinets mission to keep traffic moving in a safe manner with an emphasis on maintaining mobility along critical corridors.

Priority A routes include critical state routes and those most heavily traveled, such as interstates and main roads between counties or to hospitals, which receive the highest priority for snow-clearing efforts. Priority B and C routes include other important but lesser-traveled state routes.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has a webpage just for snow and ice information. The public can visit http://snowky.ky.gov to learn more about priority routes, access helpful winter weather tips and fact sheets and view informational videos on salt application and snow removal.

In addition, the public can monitor winter operations in real-time on the states interactive traffic system GoKY.ky.gov to find out whats happening on state routes in their local counties.

Every snowstorm is different and presents unique challenges, such as air temperature, pavement temperature, the timing of snowfall and ice. Last winter season, 2019 2020, District 6 crews used 9,900 tons of salt and 1,175 gallons of liquid chloride. No brine was needed for snow and ice events. In all, District 6 spent $3.4 million on equipment, materials and labor.

You are an important part! Safe travel begins with YOU!

Be prepared:

The following measures will help keep motorists safe and prepared:

  • Put yourself in emergency mode
  • Pay attention to weather advisories. Weather will impact your commute on some level
  • Travel only as necessary during major snow events. Its better to be stuck at home than to be stuck on the road
  • Maintain a safe distance from snowplows and other heavy highway equipment
  • Do not pass snowplows on the shoulder
  • Allow time for a slower commute
  • Winterize vehicles
  • Supply vehicles with blankets, flashlight and an emergency supply kit
  • Know before you go. Visit ky.gov and download the free Waze app to check traffic conditions before you travel
  • Eliminate distractions (e.g., operating phone and eating) while driving
  • Cooperate with the expectations of the Quick Clearance law, which requires drivers to move vehicles to the shoulder in the event of a non-injury crash

For real-time traffic information, visit http://GoKY.ky.gov. Follow District 9 updates on Twitter and Facebook at http://twitter.com/KYTCDistrict9 or http://facebook.com/KYTCDistrict9.