Road crews already having to clear trees as storm moves west
Kentuckians advised to stay off roads as treacherous conditions develop
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) “snow fighters” are having to clear downed trees in addition to treating roadways as a winter storm packing sleet and freezing rain moves across Kentucky, creating hazardous road conditions. So far the heaviest work has been in western Kentucky but ice already is forming in Northern Kentucky and power outages already are being reported in areas along the Ogio River and moving south toward Lexington.
The commonwealth is in the path of a 2,000-mile-long storm front that stretches from Texas to Maine. The National Weather Service warned of “difficult to impossible travel conditions Thursday into Friday morning.”
Gov. Andy Beshear and KYTC Secretary Jim Gray advised Kentuckians to avoid nonessential travel.
“Roadways will be dangerous and temperatures will be very low,” Gov. Beshear said.
“Our highway crews will do everything possible to keep roadways passable, but we advise everyone who can do so to stay off the road,” Secretary Gray said.
As the storm moved eastward, leaving ice-covered trees in its wake, KYTC crews, who are equipped with chainsaws, encountered downed trees in Caldwell, Christian, Hopkins and Webster counties. The Kentucky Division of Forestry sent a chainsaw crew to support tree clearing in Caldwell County.
Late Wednesday, KYTC engineers closed the U.S. 45 Ohio River Bridge between Paducah and Brookport, Illinois. The bridge has an open steel grid deck rather than solid pavement.
Gov. Beshear, Secretary Gray and Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett held a second briefing on the storm Thursday in Frankfort. Watch it on YouTube.
Beshear continues to ask Kentuckians to stay off the roadways if possible as rain, snow and ice continue into the evening and through Friday morning.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), freezing rain is ongoing in Western Kentucky and precipitation will transition slowly to freezing rain from northwest to southeast across Kentucky today. Western, central and northern regions of the state are expected to receive 0.25-0.5 inches of ice.
“While this storm is not as severe as the 2009 ice storm, it is still very dangerous,” Gov. Beshear said. “Later Thursday through Friday morning roadways will be dangerous and temperatures will be very low. So avoid late work commutes today and avoid roadways if possible.”
The NWS said significant ice accumulation is expected between the Ohio River and the Western Kentucky and Bluegrass parkways.
Travel will also be impacted through Friday morning as temperatures, precipitation and snow continue to fall. Flooding is possible in south-central and east-central Kentucky and possible river flooding into the weekend – especially in the Green River basin.
Given the forecast for this evening and tomorrow morning, the Governor ordered state office buildings closed Friday, Feb. 4, to help keep thousands of employees off the dangerous roadways and asked state employees to refer to guidance issued by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet. State office buildings are also closed today.
Emergency Management Response
Kentucky Emergency Management has activated the State Emergency Operations Center and personnel from the Kentucky National Guard, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Department for Public Health are monitoring the situation from the center.
The Governor thanked everyone who continues to respond and support the frequent and ongoing emergency response efforts over the past several months.
Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management, said that one warming center is now open in Nelson County and more than 25 warming centers across the commonwealth are currently on standby. More than 4,000 households, mostly in Western Kentucky, are already without power.
“The storm front is impacting our westernmost counties at this time with icing beginning at minimum prediction levels, with associated power outages. While the central and eastern county impacts are experiencing delayed timelines, this event will play out well into the evening and nighttime hours. This system is still on track to be an extremely hazardous, life-threatening event. Please delay your travel until the system has passed your area and responders and crews have completed their work,” said Director Dossett.
Where pavement temperatures permitted, KYTC crews began applying salt to prevent hard bonding of freezing rain to pavement.
“There are KYTC crews out all across the state, with more than 1,500 pieces of equipment and more than 2,000 employees activated. Our crews will do everything that can be done to make roadways passable, but the best advice remains for the public to stay off the roads,” KYTC Secretary Jim Gray said.
KYTC engineers closed the U.S. 45 Ohio River Bridge between Paducah and Brookport, Illinois, late Wednesday because of icing.
KYTC road crews, who carry chainsaws in their trucks, were having to clear downed trees in Caldwell, Christian, Hopkins and Webster counties, with help from other chainsaw crews from the Kentucky Division of Forestry.
Kentuckians should be prepared for power outages and tree damage that are possible due to freezing rain. Kentuckians can follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on preventing carbon monoxide exposure and safety tips to prepare for and cope with the loss of power.
Wednesday, Gov. Beshear declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the major winter storm and issued an executive order to protect Kentuckians from price gouging that can occur during an emergency with goods and services like gasoline, food and household items. To read the full release, click here.
Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund Update
The Governor also noted today that the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund has now paid more than $1.2 million in assistance payments to 425 uninsured homeowners and more than $559,000 in assistance payments to 693 uninsured renters who registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In January, the Governor announced the state would apply the funds to add 20% on top of what FEMA awards in individual assistance for uninsured homeowners and renters impacted by the storms. The FEMA registration deadline is Feb. 11, 2022, so additional payments may occur. The first fund expenditures paid for the funerals of the 77 storm victims.
The Governor thanked the more than 148,000 donors who have contributed more than $46 million to the fund. More than $43 million remains in the fund, and the Governor will continue to provide updates on how the fund will be used to support long-term recovery efforts.