Herald-Leader Staff Reports
This is like the old days, right? Sort of.
You have to go back to a couple of years in the mid-1990s to find the amount of snow we're having this year, said Stuart Foster, the state climatologist.
Before that, the 1960s and '70s saw what are generally called "bad" winters, with lots of cold and snow. And before that, early in the 20th century.
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And from Foster, not a prediction, but an observation: When we have a unusually snowy winter, it historically has been followed by another. Or two.
The 'bad' one
A note about 1977-78: There have been colder winters and snowier winters, but the 1977-78 winter, with its heavy snow and persistent cold, etched itself in the memory of anyone who lived through it. Highlights: A January blizzard that closed virtually every road in the state. And snow that stuck, then stuck around; there was some on the ground for 57 days, from Jan. 13 through March 10.
What does climate change have to do with it?
The deniers look at our nation's capital buried under snow and say, "Ha, there ain't no global warming." Climate scientists say a warmer ocean means more moisture, thus more snow along the Atlantic seaboard.
Foster, the Kentucky climatologist, says Kentucky winters and summers were cooler in the '60s and '70s and warmer in the '80s and '90s. Since then: a leveling off. Springs and autumns have generally been a little warmer, he said, but "nothing outside the historical record."
Winter weather continued to batter Kentucky on Monday, leading Lexington's mayor to issue a snow emergency order, Fayette County Public Schools to call off classes on Tuesday and weather researchers to note that the area has easily topped a statistical average for the season.
Effective 6 p.m. Monday, Mayor Jim Newberry declared a Stage 1 snow emergency in Lexington, meaning vehicles parked on snow emergency routes had to be moved by 10 p.m. Monday or face possible towing. The emergency order was to continue until further notice.
Roads on the snow emergency route are marked with signs, and Newberry said the city's plows need to be able to work the streets without parked vehicles in the way.
For information about how to retrieve a towed vehicle, call the Police Reports Desk at (859) 258-3563. In addition to towing costs, people who do not move their vehicles could face fines of $10 to $50.
The city's decision came about an hour after Fayette school officials called off Tuesday's classes. Numerous other school districts also issued closing notices. Visit Kentucky.com to search school closings.
Beating the average
Meanwhile, the 5 inches of snow in Lexington on Monday marked the 19th day this winter that measurable snow — a tenth of an inch or more — has fallen, said Mike Crow in the National Weather Service office in Louisville. The long-term average of days with snow: 15.5 days.
Monday's snowfall, the largest this winter, brought Lexington's total for the season to 18.5 inches.
Eastern Kentucky fared better, with less than an inch of accumulation in Pike County, although a bit more snow was expected to fall through Tuesday.
The eastern counties "usually get all the snow. That's just the exact opposite," said Tony Edwards, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Jackson.