On Thursday, Lexington braced for freezing temperatures while digging out after a storm dropped 17.1 inches of snow on Fayette County.
Snow started falling Wednesday night, and the storm lasted until about noon Thursday. Temperatures were predicted to be below zero Friday morning and could set a record low for that date, according to the National Weather Service. The University of Kentucky, Fayette County Public Schools and Eastern Kentucky University canceled Friday's classes, and Lexington's government center will be closed.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Jim Gray thanked the people of Lexington for staying off the roads and applauded the response of the city's employees in dealing with the snow.
"We fought off a 17.1-inch historic snowstorm with good planning and hard work," Gray said.
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Although no deaths or major injuries were reported as a result of the storm, police and firefighters were kept busy.
From midnight Wednesday to 6 p.m. Thursday, police responded to one injury accident, 49 non-injury accidents and 193 calls to help stranded motorists. Officers also escorted 37 medical professionals to local hospitals.
Police Cmdr. Thomas Curtsinger said many people apparently chose to stay home Thursday morning, reducing the amount of traffic officers had to handle.
"The level of traffic seems to be less than it was during the last storm," he said.
On Feb. 16, Lexington received more than 10½ inches of snow in one day, keeping police and fire crews busy rescuing stranded motorists.
Lilla Mason, public relations director for AAA of the Bluegrass, said the organization was busy but received fewer calls for assistance Thursday then it did Feb. 16.
"We think people learned from the last time," she said. "I think a lot more people stayed home and more businesses were closed."
Fire Maj. Lee Hayden said the department had responded to five fire calls and 40 emergency runs, three of which were people slipping and falling, on Thursday.
The snow-covered streets made travel difficult and shuttered schools and many businesses. Blue Grass Airport remained open Thursday, but numerous flights were canceled, spokeswoman Amy Caudill said.
Lextran, the city's bus service, ran on major routes only.
Garbage pickup Thursday and Friday was canceled.
The city's road crews struggled to keep up with the rapidly falling snow Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Streets and Roads director Albert Miller said crews would be out Thursday night plowing streets and doing some salting, although low temperatures might limit the salt's effectiveness. Crews will stay on 24-hour shifts until the streets are cleared, Miller said.
Priority one streets were mostly cleared as of late Thursday afternoon. Secondary roads were next to be plowed, he said.
"With this much snow, we'll have to see how it goes," Miller said.
The city's private contractors also hit the streets with graders and other equipment the city does not have, officials said.
Even sledders faced problems.
The hill next to the Beaumont YMCA, a prime location for sledding, was dangerous and should not be used, the YMCA of Central Kentucky warned. YMCA officials cited problems at the bottom of the hill caused by standing water under the newly fallen snow.
The city's homeless shelters were busy but still had room for people who needed shelter, city officials said.
Charlie Lanter, director of Lexington's Office of Homelessness Prevention, said the city's homeless service providers went out Tuesday night to urge those reluctant to seek shelter to do so before Wednesday's storm. The number of people staying in the city's homeless shelters Wednesday night was typical — 439, Lanter said. The average is 430 to 450 for this time of year.
Lanter said many homeless people receive Social Security checks at the beginning of the month and stay in hotels when they can afford it. That's why the number of people in shelters Wednesday night was lower than it was during the Feb. 16 storm.
All of the city's shelters — Arbor Youth Services, the Salvation Army, the Hope Center, Community Inn and Catholic Action Center — are now open 24 hours.
"We have weathered it well," Lanter said. "Our capacity has been up about 20 percent. We haven't reached a point where we don't have places for people to go. That's the most important thing."
He urged anyone who knows someone who is staying outside or in a home that does not have adequate heat to call (859) 258-3600. Those seeking shelter or other assistance may call the United Way at 211.