Fayette County

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray: ‘Our city is prepared,’ but use caution, patience

City expects freezing rain followed by snow, mayor announces plans for weather

Mayor Jim Gray holds press conference announcing the city’s plans for the winter storm, including snow removal, shelters for homeless, and LexTran transportation.
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Mayor Jim Gray holds press conference announcing the city’s plans for the winter storm, including snow removal, shelters for homeless, and LexTran transportation.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said the city ramped up staffing and was prepared for Friday’s mix of rain, ice and snow, but he also urged residents to be cautious and patient.

“Our city is prepared,” Gray said. “But we are asking drivers to be cautious and give the crews and equipment plenty of room as they work to clear streets.”

Snow removal crews from streets and roads and other city departments will work most of Friday, and then start working 12-hour shifts Friday night at 8 p.m. More than 50 drivers will work the storm — half from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. and the other half from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Supervisors and support staff will also work 12-hour shifts.

The city currently has 6,000 tons of salt on hand.

Lexington police will have additional units available and fire crews can bring in additional staff if needed, Gray said. Lextran is providing free rides to homeless shelters. Anyone needing shelter can dial 211, he said. Pet owners also were encouraged to take pets inside as temperatures plummeted Friday.

All city offices except those directly involved with snow and ice removal closed at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Gray said.

Lexington Sgt. Jervis Middleton said if the city gets a lot of snow over the next 24 hours, Lexington police will be able to transport hospital and emergency staff to work.

Assistant Lexington Fire Chief Chris Sweat reminded residents to use caution with space heaters and extension cords. Camp grills and stoves should not be used inside, he said.

The mix of rain and dropping temperatures made pretreating streets Friday morning impossible, said Albert Miller, director of the city’s streets and roads.

Miller said once temperatures dip below 32 degrees and the rain stops, crews will be able to salt streets. Even more problematic — salt is less effective under 20 degrees.

“We’ll have salt on the roads, but drivers should proceed with caution,” Miller said. “Salt is not as effective in bitter cold temperatures.”

Miller said ice before snow could also hamper the city’s attempts to plow streets. People need to be patient and not park on the sides of roads, so plows can more easily get through, Miller said.

The city’s goal is to have streets cleared 36 hours after snow falls. That’s a little longer than in prior years.

City officials opted not to have a private contractor on standby this year after the city had to pay that contractor $180,000 last year, despite not using the contractor due to a mild winter. That decision, combined with a shortage of employees with commercial drivers licenses, means clearing streets may take longer.

A committee of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council agreed in a September meeting to extend the number of hours the city can take to clear streets from 24 to 36. The committee decided to extend the deadline rather than decrease the number of streets plowed.

If Friday and Saturday’s snow accumulation tops 4 inches, the city will still use some private contractors to plow some city streets. High traffic and main streets — such as Nicholasville, Winchester, Main and Vine streets — get plowed first. Plows then move to streets given a rank of two, including Rosemont Garden and Bryan Avenue, which connect major streets and provide access to large commercial areas with offices and stores.

Rank three streets include collector streets through neighborhoods such as Zandale Drive, Appian Way and Buck Lane. Neighborhood streets get plowed last.

To access the city’s snow removal plan and found out where your street is ranked go to https://www.lexingtonky.gov/snow-and-ice-control-plan. The city also has a snow update page at https://www.lexingtonky.gov/snowupdates.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall