Fayette County

Storm could make Thursday morning rush hour a mess

A snow plow cleared the combination of snow and ice on Tates Creek Rd. during a freezing rain event in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, December, 16, 2010. Snow changed over to freezing rain during the early morning hours. Charles Bertram | Staff
A snow plow cleared the combination of snow and ice on Tates Creek Rd. during a freezing rain event in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, December, 16, 2010. Snow changed over to freezing rain during the early morning hours. Charles Bertram | Staff

With forecasters predicting a storm would dump freezing rain early Thursday, Central and Eastern Kentucky scurried Wednesday to prepare.

The National Weather Service said snow was expected to start falling in both regions Wednesday night and turn to sleet and freezing rain. The heaviest precipitation was expected to end by daybreak Thursday, followed by light precipitation throughout the day.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said about 40 salt trucks would be out Wednesday night and about 50 Lexington police officers had been reassigned so they can be available during Thursday morning's rush hour.

Sam Williams, director of the city's Division of Streets, Roads and Forestry, said moving cars off snow routes will help crews remove snow more efficiently. For snow-route information, see www.lexingtonky.gov.

Williams said crews would work throughout Wednesday night as necessary to clear roads. He said 12-hour shifts had been implemented to keep people working throughout the storm.

The University of Kentucky postponed final exams scheduled before 10 a.m. Thursday. Final exams scheduled for 10 a.m. or after were to proceed as planned. Staff and faculty were to report to work as scheduled, and university business offices and services were to continue on their regular schedules.

Finals originally scheduled for 8-10 a.m. Thursday were reassigned to Friday with new times and/or new locations. Check uknow.uky.edu for more information.

Eastern Kentucky University said it would cancel all Thursday finals before 1 p.m. at all of its campuses. Students can check EKU's Web site, eku.edu, for updates on rescheduling. EKU offices will open at 10 a.m. Thursday, and Model Lab School has a two-hour delay.

The Lexington area could get 3 to 4 inches of snow, which is expected to transition into sleet and freezing rain on Thursday, said Nathan Foster, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Louisville. He said ice accumulation could range from a quarter-inch to a half-inch.

Harrison and Scott counties and areas farther north could receive 5 to 7 inches of snow, Foster said. In areas south of Lexington, less snow accumulation is expected, but a quarter-inch to a half-inch of ice accumulation is possible, he said.

A winter storm warning was in effect for Eastern Kentucky, from Fleming County to the Tennessee and Virginia borders, starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday, said Chuck Greif, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson. The warning will probably last until 10 a.m. Thursday in southeastern Kentucky and until noon in the middle portion of Eastern Kentucky, including Hazard and Jackson, and 4 p.m. farther north, Greif said.

Snow was expected to give way to sleet Thursday morning, changing to freezing rain or all rain in southern Kentucky.

Areas north of the Mountain Parkway and Interstate 64 could get 4 to 8 inches of snow mixed with some sleet by mid-afternoon Thursday, Greif said.

Cold air was expected to move back in later Thursday. A lingering drizzle in the evening could freeze, he said.

Kentucky Utilities, which has customers across the state, has been bracing for the storm for days.

KU spokesman Cliff Feltham said to expect outages as tree limbs fall on power lines, but it was impossible to tell how many and where they would occur.

There were 769,000 power outages reported statewide and much of the western half of the state was immobilized by downed trees and utility lines after an ice storm at the end of 2009.

In February 2003, an ice storm left 115,000 Kentucky Utilities customers without power, and some of them waited for more than a week for power to be restored.

Mayor Newberry said city road crews have already used about 3,000 tons of salt. The city usually uses 10,000 to 12,000 tons of salt during an average winter, he said.

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