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Henderson County, region prep for 'big, beautiful snowy mess' amid winter weather events

The Gleaner (Henderson, KY) logo The Gleaner (Henderson, KY) 2/15/2021 Beth Smith, Henderson Gleaner

HENDERSON, Ky. — Here's the good news — this weekend is supposed to be warmer.

Until then, emergency management officials said people should brace themselves for a winter weather carnival ride with snow and sleet covered twists and turns.

While the first round of the winter storm dropped about an inch of snow Sunday night, Henderson County EMA Director Kenny Garrett said the second wave, which barreled in mid-morning Monday — was anticipated to bring between 6 and 12 inches of snow/sleet.

Tuesday looks to be relatively free from precipitation, he said, but there is a giant question mark on what the third round of the weather event will be. 

"We are looking at several inches (Monday), but we don't really know what that's going to be on Wednesday. So the concerns are the temperatures below freezing through Friday, and the wind. Whatever we get (Monday), and Wednesday will be here. The roads will be slick and temperatures will be frigid," he said.

More: Forecasters: Evansville, Henderson will get 'heavy snow' up to 12 inches, second storm

The National Weather Service in Paducah warned that the winter weather event that started around 10 a.m. in Henderson County "will be much more significant with an extended period of moderate to heavy snow rates of up to around an inch an hour, and sharply reduced visibility.

"Most of the snow will fall in the latter half of the morning through the afternoon (for areas south/west) and into the evening (for areas north/east)," NWS officials said. "Roads are already covered from Sunday night and, once the snow begins again, are expected to quickly become treacherous. Limit travel as much as possible."

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Staying at home is best, but not always possible.

That's why city and county road crews have been diligently treating the hundreds of miles of roads.

"We knew Friday it was coming," said City Street Superintendent Steve Gibson. "We kept watching the news, and by Sunday, they were talking like it was really coming. I was hoping that between Friday and Sunday, they would change their minds. But they didn't. So, about 11 p.m. Sunday night about five of our trucks got out and started putting salt down to pretreat and get things ready, and they've been out all night."

a truck that is driving down the street: A Kentucky Department of Highways snowplow turns around at the bottom of the overpass on Second Street while spreading salt in the area Wednesday morning, Feb. 10, 2020. A thin layer of ice covered the roads in Henderson County making driving conditions hazardous. © MaCabe Brown / The Gleaner A Kentucky Department of Highways snowplow turns around at the bottom of the overpass on Second Street while spreading salt in the area Wednesday morning, Feb. 10, 2020. A thin layer of ice covered the roads in Henderson County making driving conditions hazardous.

Gibson said since last winter was relatively mild, currently the salt and sand supply is plentiful.

"Last year we didn't have a lot of snow," he said. "We've used roughly half of our supply of salt/sand, so I think this should get us through this week. We won't put a lot of salt down today (Monday) because it won't really work after a certain temperature."

Gibson said roads are prioritized.

"We focus on heavily traveled roads. Subdivisions are secondary, so they won't be dealt with yet. There are always the bad spots such as Dixon and Main streets; the four-way stops. We treat the hospital, police department and ambulance service (locations)."

The road crews themselves are an invaluable resource, he said, so it's important to make sure each person gets plenty of rest.

"We will rotate shifts as we can. We have about 15 people and each truck holds two, so we have some overlap" which allows staff to go home and get some rest when possible. "We have to wait and see what happens. We just have to play it by ear."

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County Engineer Bill Hubiak said road crews did three things in preparation for the winter weather onslaught. 

"We've checked all of our equipment and made sure it was serviced up and operable," he said. "We've made room in the shop and recycle building. That way we can park all of our equipment inside so it's not exposed to the weather. Finally, we got our 300 tons of salt the first week of January, so we'd have plenty. We get the sand as we need it. We mix it up with salt. But right now we are in good shape."

The county has 330 blacktopped/hard surface roads, and 110 gravel, he said.

"Each truck has certain routes and roads that they treat. We start at the road department and work our way out," Hubiak said. "We don't respond to any calls unless it's 911 for emergency services — police, fire and ambulance."

Due to last week's icy conditions, county crews had treated county roads, "so everything was pretty cleared off and there's no use now to pretreat them. Salt won't activate at this temperature. We salt and sand at stop lights, stop signs and we are getting the hills."

Garrett, who is a member of the Homeless Coalition in Henderson County, said the organization is aware of the danger that the winter weather means for the dozens of homeless in the county.

"I'm a part of the homeless coalition, and we are attuned to the dozens who are known to be homeless ... They go from place to place, and they know where they can take shelter.  And the Henderson Christian Community Outreach works well with them," he said. "We opened up a warming shelter this week at the Salvation Army, but if an overnight shelter is needed we have a plan for that. If we get into a situation where we have rolling power outages and have to open up a congregate shelter, that's a different piece ... The concern with (Wednesday's) storm is there might be ice. We just don't know."

People needing a place to shelter from the cold can visit the Salvation Army, 1213 Washington St., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. People needing overnight shelter can contact the Christian Outreach Center at 270-826-5592.

The NWS said the high temperatures Monday were expected to reach 19 degrees with a low of 8. Tuesday's high falls to 18 degrees with a low anticipated at 9. Wednesday, when the next round of snow is expected, will likely reach only 26 degrees.

"It's going to be a big, beautiful snowy mess," Garrett said. "And we are working at the city and county level to make sure we are ready. All search and rescue teams across Kentucky are on alert to help with stranded motorists and other situations."

This article originally appeared on Henderson Gleaner: Henderson County, region prep for 'big, beautiful snowy mess' amid winter weather events

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