Crime

Snow, another brutal stretch of cold sets in for Central Kentucky

Chase Jackson, a University of Kentucky junior from Manchester, took a photo with his phone camera as snow started falling during the morning commute in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, January 21, 2014.  1-3 inches of snow is in the forecast for Central Kentucky. He was walking to class. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
Chase Jackson, a University of Kentucky junior from Manchester, took a photo with his phone camera as snow started falling during the morning commute in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, January 21, 2014. 1-3 inches of snow is in the forecast for Central Kentucky. He was walking to class. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

A widespread snowfall hit Central Kentucky early Tuesday, closing schools, causing more than 150 wrecks and complicating efforts to clear roads.

Relief did not appear to be in sight.

We shouldn't expect things to get much better for a while, said WKYT-TV Chief Meteorologist Chris Bailey.

"We are in the middle of a brutal stretch of winter weather," he said. "I don't see any kind of a warm-up at all. We're just going to keep getting these arctic blasts."

Tuesday brought a "widespread 3- to 6-inch snowfall" to Central and Eastern Kentucky.

Bailey said overnight lows would be around zero, with highs Wednesday in the teens, accompanied by more gusty winds. He said Wednesday night would bring a "light snowmaker" pushing even more cold air into the area.

Other blasts of snow could come Friday night through Monday.

On Tuesday, Lexington police had second-shift officers start early to help give first shift a hand dealing with wrecks. Lexington police responded to 144 non-injury wrecks and 12 injury collisions between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Shortly after 4 p.m., Fayette County Public Schools officials announced a cancellation of Wednesday's classes because of "unsafe road conditions on side roads and in subdivisions, combined with forecasts calling for the continuation of bitterly cold temperatures that will not allow road conditions to significantly improve."

That means students will now be attending school at least through June 3.

Because of worsening weather conditions, Mayor Jim Gray sent city employees home at 3 p.m. whose work was not related to weather response.

City offices were to reopen at 10 a.m. Wednesday, a two-hour delay.

Garbage collection will go forward on Wednesday as scheduled, but Gray said some roads might be "too icy for trucks." He said anyone who is missed by the trucks should call 311.

Throughout the night, police continued responding to calls about crashes. People were getting stuck or complaining about icy conditions.

Police and city officials cautioned motorists to avoid traveling if possible Tuesday night, saying rural and side roads were in "fair to poor" condition. Police issued advisories urging motorists to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. And those who had to venture out were told to drive carefully, allow extra stopping distances and maintain more spacing between vehicles.

The salt and other chemicals used to treat icy roads do not work well once the temperature drops below a certain level, said Rob Allen, Lexington's acting deputy director of streets and roads.

The treatment they use "works well in the 23- to 25-degree range, and we can include an additive that will help melting down to 15 or 18 degrees," but if the temperature gets below that, "it's so cold that about all you can do is plow it," he said.

Bill Osborne, who was helping coordinate the city's road response, said a full contingent of crews — about 40 trucks — would be working an 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift overnight Tuesday.

He said they would be treating the "priority" roads with chemicals and scraping.

Osborne said crews also respond to calls from emergency response workers about areas that need particular attention.

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