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Kentuckians deal with wintry blast

First it snowed and now it's going to freeze: Welcome to Kentucky's icebox weekend.

Between four and six inches of snow covered Fayette County Saturday morning, although many roads were cleared by noon.

Eastern Kentucky, however, got hit with a bigger snow punch: Sara George, information officer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 12, said snow reached as high as 10 to 12 inches in mountainous parts of Eastern Kentucky and fell as fast as an inch per hour.

Now comes the second wave of a wintry weekend: a trailing blast of freezing temperatures could make roads slick again well into Sunday, with the Lexington area expected to wake up to temperatures possibly as low as the single digits. Activities from church services to bingo were canceled.

Although much of Kentucky has yet to see the foot-plus snows and electric line-popping ice of past years, Friday night's snowstorm led to a raft of accidents: Lt. Chris Vanbrackel of the Lexington police department said that between midnight Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday, police responded to 77 non-injury accidents, six injury collisions and 42 motorist assists.

"I think even though the snow's done, a lot of the roads like Tates Creek and Man o' War are still very wet, so if we get cold tonight we're going to refreeze," Vanbrackel said.

Vanbrackel said no state-owned vehicles were severely damaged.

"The worst that we had was a snow plow bump a mailbox. I'm crossing my fingers that that will be it," he said.

Around 8:30 a.m., a snowplow driven by Betty Humphrey of Rock Trucking was driven off U.S. 23 in Floyd County after a passenger fishtailed as it tried to pass her.

"She put on her brakes to try to keep the car from sideswiping her," George said. "When that happens in a snowplow it throws the truck off balance. You have to keep the snowplow going at a certain speed."

Sam Williams, Lexington's director of streets and roads, said he had seen two salt trucks, one state-owned and one local, that had gone off the road Saturday, which he said isn't unusual.

"When the roads are snow covered and you're carrying a heavy load you can easily misjudge where the road is," he said.

Williams said road crews continue to work around the clock, clearing roads and putting down de-icing chemicals in preparation for colder weather. Shift changes occur every 12 hours, at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

In other parts of Kentucky, temperatures stayed lower than Lexington, which hovered around 30 degrees, and snow continued falling into Saturday evening.

Temperatures varied widely, said George of the state Transportation Cabinet. At 5:30 p.m., Johnson County residents were experiencing 27-degree temperatures. At the same time, the temperature in Pike County was 12.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, George said no injury accidents had been reported in District 12, which includes the counties of Lawrence, Johnson, Martin, Floyd, Knott, Pike and Letcher.

"Considering the visibility problems we've had and the amount of snow we've had, this has been a miraculously accident-free weather event," she said.

At 6:30 p.m., the Kentucky Transportation Council's Web site reported most state roads to be in fair driving condition, with light or plowed snow still covering the road in most Southern and Eastern counties.

Mark Brown, spokesman for the Transportation Cabinet, said that although most state roads outside of Eastern Kentucky were clear, salting and plowing would continue through the night to prevent refreezing.

"They're going to make sure they have the roads in the best possible positions going to night with those frigid temperatures forecast," he said.

Dispatcher Lindsey Barnett said that no traffic deaths had been reported to Kentucky State Police headquarters Saturday, but the snow storm wasn't completely without casualties — just ask basketball fans.

All Fayette County high school basketball games, and many around the state including the anticipated game between number one Scott County High at third-ranked George Rogers Clark, were cancelled or postponed.

Scott County and George Rogers Clark will play at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Several college men's and women's doubleheaders were postponed as well. The Eastern Kentucky University-Tennessee State and Morehead State-Austin Peay games were postponed until Sunday. Campbellsville and Georgetown colleges will play their scheduled doubleheaders Monday.