A foot of snow hits parts of Eastern Ky.; lower elevations mostly spared

gkocher1@herald-leader.comOctober 30, 2012 

As expected, Eastern Kentucky felt the most severe effects in the state from the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Those effects included power outages, hazardous driving conditions, closed schools, and trees felled by heavy snow.

Crews in Harlan County had to aid some stranded motorists Monday night on Black Mountain, the state's highest peak, and U.S. 23 in Letcher County was temporarily impassable. Road crews reported a foot of snow on top of Black Mountain.

Letcher County's snowfall ranged from 12 to 14 inches on top of Pine Mountain to 1 to 5 inches in the valleys, Letcher Judge-Executive Jim Ward said Tuesday morning.

"The upper end of the county, from Whitesburg to Jenkins, is where it hit the hardest," Ward said. "The lower end of the county probably got 1½ inches or so."

Most roads were open, but motorists "travel at your own risk," Ward said. "I was up on Pine Mountain, and I wouldn't want to go across on a two-wheel drive."

Nearly 1,300 Letcher County homes were without power Tuesday morning, Ward said. Schools in Letcher County and several other Eastern Kentucky districts were closed. Power was not expected to be restored until late Wednesday.

"To tell you the truth, it is not as bad as we had planned for, and that's a good thing, because it didn't get all of our county. It got just about half of it," Ward said.

Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford agreed that the storm was not as severe as anticipated. Snowfall totals in Pike County ranged from 4 inches in Belfry to 0.2 inches in Pikeville, the National Weather Service reported.

"We were spared," Rutherford said. "They said this could be the worst blizzard that Central Appalachia has had in its history. That's what was projected to us."

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Kentucky Power reported that 5,625 customers were without power in five Eastern Kentucky counties. The largest outages were 2,555 in Pike County and 2,269 in Letcher. Hundreds had no power in Floyd, Knott and Perry counties, the utility reported.

Only 27 homes were reported to be without power Tuesday morning in Harlan County, said David McGill, the emergency management director there.

State Transportation Cabinet highway crews continued plowing roads Tuesday in Harlan, Knott, Letcher, Pike, Martin, Magoffin, Perry and Floyd counties.

For the second day in a row, departing Delta Air Lines flights to New York and Washington, D.C., were canceled Tuesday at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, said marketing specialist Louise Bowden.

In addition, a departing 12:40 p.m. Delta flight to Atlanta was canceled because of crosswinds in Lexington, Bowden said.

The airport continued to advise travelers to check with their airlines for the status of scheduled flights.

Kentucky state parks will offer discounted rates to displaced travelers at some lodges and cottages through Nov. 4.

The rate for lodge rooms is $44.95 at Blue Licks Battlefield, Jenny Wiley, Carter Caves, Greenbo Lake and Pine Mountain state resort parks. The rate is $49.95 at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The normal price range for rooms this time of year would be $59.95 to $79.95, said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.

Outside the state, Kentuckians were helping to restore power and bring aid to those in need.

Kentucky Utilities and LG&E sent an additional 100 line technicians, tree-crew workers and other personnel to the Northeast. That meant a total of more than 400 people dispatched by Kentucky power companies were assisting PPL Electric Utilities, a subsidiary of KU and LG&E's parent company, PPL Corp.

The crews helped restore electric service near Allentown, Pa. As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, PPL reported more than 400,000 customers were without power. Crews had tried restoring service Monday, but the wind was too strong to set the poles, a KU news release said.

KU had also deployed about 75 people to provide additional support for KU and Old Dominion crews in southeast Kentucky and the western part of Virginia. KU serves five counties in Virginia as well as 77 Kentucky counties.

The Bluegrass Chapter of the American Red Cross planned to deploy two more volunteers to northern New Jersey on Tuesday. Those two were in addition to one sent to New Jersey, two to New York and three to West Virginia earlier.

The additional two volunteers going to New Jersey will work in shelters, according to email from Winn Stephens, director of development for the Bluegrass chapter.

As for the forecast, the weather service in Jackson said light precipitation will continue into Wednesday morning before diminishing from west to east. Light snow or a light rain-snow mix will continue only in elevations higher than 1,500 feet.

Rain will continue moving slowly to the east on Wednesday, said meteorologist John Jacobson at Jackson. "By Thursday morning maybe just a couple of counties — Pike and Martin counties — will still have some rain and maybe some snow mixed in there," he said.

Wednesday temperatures will be in the mid-40s in Central Kentucky and closer to 40 in most of Eastern Kentucky.

"Thursday, during the day, rain will be moving out of Pike," Jacobson said.

Temperatures on Thursday in Central Kentucky will be in the low to mid-50s, and closer to 50 in Eastern Kentucky.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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