Lexington police officers know bad weather can cause a flurry of accidents. But having worked through two ice storms, officers also know there is a possibility of power outages.
That can mean traffic lights are knocked out, so the Division of Police has bought nearly a dozen traffic light inverters, which allow their cruisers to power traffic lights.
Lexington police say there will be 11 cruisers with traffic light inverters on standby in case there is a power outage Thursday.
The traffic light inverters — special boxes hooked up to police car batteries that transfer the car's power to traffic lights — saw widespread use in south Lexington on Wednesday during a power outage that affected about 10,000 Kentucky Utilities customers. Power was restored by noon Wednesday to all KU costumers, spokesman Cliff Feltham said.
The inverters were deployed at several high-traffic intersections along Tates Creek Road. Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said the inverters came in handy during rush hour — without them, officers would have had to direct traffic or allow motorists to try to navigate dark intersections on their own.
"This allows the traffic light to go on working as it would," she said.
The Division of Police bought the inverters in August 2009, the summer after a devastating ice storm cut power to nearly 30,000 households in Lexington and more than 500,000 homes statewide.
"We realized what an impact losing electricity can have on our operations," Roberts said.
She said the inverters cost about $1,000 each and were purchased with "asset forfeiture" funds, money seized from drug dealers and other criminals.
The division is considering buying more inverters, she said.
Not all of the inverters were deployed Wednesday morning after a fallen power line caused the KU outage, but Roberts said more were in use at once than ever before.
"Before, we just used them here and there," she said.