Fayette, other school districts cancel classes as temperatures head into bitter territory

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJanuary 5, 2014 

As temperatures began to fall Sunday night, Fayette County and other school districts, including Anderson, Boyle, Garrard, Mercer, Scott and many in Eastern Kentucky, canceled classes on Monday.

A potent winter storm was moving east and bringing a strong Arctic front through the Bluegrass State. Precipitation was to transition rapidly from rain to snow.

Snow showers were to linger overnight and temperatures were expected to fall into the single digits — above and below zero — by dawn Monday. And all this after the temperatures reached a high of 55 degrees Sunday afternoon.

With Central Kentucky braced for the coldest temperatures in a decade, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray again asked citizens to watch out for their neighbors, particularly the elderly and people who live alone or those with special needs.


Central, Eastern Ky. closings (WKYT's SnoGo)


"We are here to urge caution, be alert, aware, be prepared and to do what Lexington citizens do best: care for one another," Gray said during a Sunday news conference about the weather. "This is unusual weather, and it's important to think intentionally and deliberately about getting prepared," Gray said during the news conference.

As a standing policy, when temperatures are below freezing, the Hope Center at 300 West Loudon Avenue, the Salvation Army at 722 West Main Street, and Arbor Youth Services MASH Drop Inn Center at 536 West Third Street are open 24 hours a day.

In addition, the Catholic Action Center, 400 East Fifth Street, will be open 24 hours through the extreme weather conditions. People seeking relief from the elements may come in at any time and are not required to leave.

Also, daytime warming centers will be open at the following spots:

■ Arbor Youth Services, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, for ages 18 to 25.

■ Dunbar Recreation Center, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 545 North Upper Street.

■ New Life Day Center, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 224 North Martin Luther King Boulevard.

■ Senior Citizens Center, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 1530 Nicholasville Road.

Lextran will offer free bus rides for individuals going to an emergency shelter or warming center Monday and Tuesday. Citizens may call Lextran at (859) 253-4636 to get the location of the nearest bus stop. People in need of shelter or other human assistance may call 211.

Street and road crews were to report to work at 10 p.m. Sunday, said Albert Miller, director of streets and roads. The residue of salt on roads will help, but Miller warned that when temperatures drop below 10 degrees the chemicals to treat the streets become less effective.

"My wife came home the other day, on Friday, and said she almost did a doughnut on Zandale Drive." Miller recounted. "And I said, 'How fast were you going?' and she said, 'The speed limit.' 'Well, that was too fast. You've got to go the speed of the conditions.'"

Police will be watching for stranded motorists or pedestrians, particularly along Interstates 75 and 64.

City firefighters urged citizens to keep space heaters at least 3 feet from combustible materials. Space heaters should be turned off when you leave home. Firefighters also urged citizens never to use an oven or grill to heat their homes.

There will be no collection of garbage or recyclables on Monday, said Charles Martin, acting commissioner of environmental quality and public works. Monday pickup will be moved to Wednesday.

"Dodging traffic even in regular weather is hard enough, but as cold as we're expecting it to be, I think it will be challenging for them," Martin said. "We don't want to put them in a situation where extreme weather might impair their judgment and then put the public at risk as well."

Finally, Gray urged citizens to bring pets inside and to shelter larger animals. Local laws require adequate shelter of animals and pets during cold weather.

Anyone putting an animal in harm's way is subject to fines of up to $500 or jail time up to 12 months.

Gray said Lexington-Fayette Animal Care and Control would respond to all calls involving animals. Officers may impound animals if care and treatment standards, including appropriate shelter, are not met.

Citizens may call (859) 255-9053 to report concerns about pets left outside in below-zero weather.

In the event a community emergency is declared, the agency also will care for pets of citizens who have had to leave their homes to seek shelter from the cold. If no emergency is declared, displaced citizens should take pets with them or board their animals. Gray said he and Urban County Council members had received phone calls expressing concern for pets.

"This is really going to be more extreme than we've had" in years, council member Bill Farmer said. "This is not a time to be a hero. This is a time to stay home and take care of your family and take care of your pets."

The forecast from the National Weather Service said there could be 1 to 2 inches of snow Monday at any given location in the Lexington area. Arctic air was to continue to surge through the region Monday. All of Central Kentucky will awake to sub-zero readings by Tuesday morning before a gradual warming leads to highs of 5 to 15 degrees Tuesday.

"Just find a warm spot and hang out there for the day," said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Spaeth in Paducah.

In Western Kentucky, which could see 1 to 3 inches of snow, Smithland farmer David Nickell moved extra hay to the field and his animals out of the wind. He also had stocked up on batteries and gas, and loaded up the pantry and freezer. The 2009 ice storm that paralyzed the state and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people was fresh in his mind.

"We are hoping this isn't going to be more than a few days of cold weather, but we did learn with the ice storm that you can wake up in the 19th century and you need to be able to not only survive but be comfortable and continue with your basic day-to-day functions," Nickell said.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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