Commonwealth Journal

March 4, 2014

Pulaski County still dealing with brutal dose of ice, snow

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — If Disney were ever going to launch a live tour of its hit animated film “Frozen,” it’s possible that Pulaski County might have just gotten a sneak preview.

The ice and snow that was dumped on the area Monday morning liked it here so much that it decided to stick around for Tuesday, making travel hazardous once again.

Unfortunately, citizens weren’t quite so willing or able to stay indoors and off the roads this time around, leading to more problems.

On Monday, the Pulaski County 911 Center reported having no on-road accidents all through the period of freezing rain, sleet and snow stretching from Sunday night into the next day.

On Tuesday, the center had calls for 14 such incidents — most of them cars going off the road, no injuries too serious, but considerably more than the morning before.

“I think most people stayed home and respected the conditions more (on Monday),” said Sheriff Todd Wood, whose agency had to work a number of those wrecks.

The ice that came down ahead of the snow on Sunday night made for a tricky situation on Tuesday morning. For one thing, as temperatures stayed below freezing and even dropped into single digits overnight, what was there never got a chance to thaw — it just froze back up.

Temperatures climbed back up on Tuesday afternoon — though not quite reaching the highs that were expected by forecasters — and early sunshine helped start the thaw on major downtown roads as the day progressed. Other thoroughfares, however, stayed covered.

David Hargis, superintendent of the City of Somerset Streets Department, noted that his crews had stayed busy, working “in the neighborhood of 24 hours” to clear the snow on 382 lane miles of city roads leading into Tuesday.

Still, he said, it’s awfully tough getting to a lot of the smaller side roads.

“When you’ve got that many streets, you’ve got to pay attention to them all you can,” he said. “You can’t dedicate yourself to make one street that good with there are that many others to deal with.”

Hargis said the going had been “rough” because icy roads don’t react as well to salt when temperatures drop.

“It froze so quickly to the pavement,” he said. “Salt loses its effectiveness at around 20 degrees, so we hard a hard time getting it off the street because it was coming so quickly. We would plow and it would be back on top of us before we could do it again.

“(The ice) froze so solid that plows can’t get underneath the ice and remove it,” he added. “The best thing we could do was leave it along and leave a skiff of snow on top of it and give it some grip. If we’d plowed the snow off the top, it would have been just ice and would have been treacherous.”

It actually would have helped to have gotten more snow, he noted — what precipitation there was came in a mixture of snow, sleet, and ice.

Bull Turner, supervisor for the Pulaski County Road Department, agreed that the ice had been a “big problem” on the county’s approximate 2,000 lane miles of road to treat.

“We can’t do it all in one day,” he said, referencing the amount of roads in the county that haven’t been touched by salt or plow yet. “It takes a few days. Hopefully, if this weather changes, it will help us tremendously.”

Turner was optimistic that the county could reach all the roads it needs to by Wednesday, but that isn’t a given. It could depend on “if nothing happens, like we have a lot of trucks in ditches and breakdowns.”

County crews were out about 18 hours throughout the icy period in 16 different trucks.

Fortunately, both departments were prepared with salt. Turner said a new shipment of close to 200 tons came in just before Sunday’s winter storm. “We mixed that with sand; it makes it go a lot farther,” he said.

Likewise, Hargis said his department was “in good standing” with the amount of salt it has in store for the job.

As far as the roads covered by the District 8 Kentucky Transportation Cabinet vehicles, by noon Tuesday, most main routes, including U.S. 27, Ky. 80, the

Cumberland Parkway and other “Priority A” highways had improved to mostly clear and wet with some slush, according to the cabinet. Plow crews went on to work “Priority B” routes — which are partly covered with snow — and Priority C routes, which are mostly covered.

“District 8 crews will work to clear as many highways as possible before nightfall, and will remain on 12-hour shifts into Wednesday,” read a statement from the cabinet released Tuesday afternoon. “Motorists should expect continued slick travel conditions and possible snow-covered roads as salt is less effective in lower temperatures. Also, with salt supplies dwindling across the state, Transportation Cabinet crews are conserving salt when necessary.

“If traveling, motorists should take it slow, wear seat belts, eliminate

distractions behind the wheel, and use caution on bridges, exit ramps and

shaded valleys as those areas are often more prone to icing.”

While Wednesday should be better than Tuesday was, the lingering snow and ice will still present problems for many

“(People) need to pay attention to details in the morning,” said Hargis. “We’d like it if citizens, if at all possible, could part their vehicles in driveways if they have an alternative to not parking on the street, because it does prevent us (from effectively clearing portions of the roadway).”