Thursday, March 5, 2015

State of emergency declared in county, state

Thor's hammer hit hard across Kentucky, leading to states of emergency being declared for Crittenden County and the entire state for the second time in just more than two weeks.

Kenergy Corp. crews were out overnight in
Crittenden County addressing a number of power
outages. Above, Philip and Natalie Parish of
southern Crittenden County help a Marion crew
whose truck got stuck in the snow at 1 a.m.
Thor is the name given by The Weather Channel to the massive winter storm that has dumped huge amounts of icy precipitation from Texas to the Atlantic Coast, affecting an estimated 85 million people.

In Crittenden County, the storm dumped sleet, freezing rain and snow beginning midday Wednesday and continuing into the early morning hours today. Snow accumulations vary across the county from more than 6 inches to snow drifts measured in feet.

On Feb. 16, Winter Storm Octavia left as much as a foot of snow across the county. Heavy snowpacks from that storm still remained on the ground as ice began to fall again Wednesday, despite several hours of steady rain and temperatures in the 50s.

Earlier today, Crittenden County Judge-Executive Perry Newcom declared a state of emergency for the county, shutting down traffic on county-maintained roads.

"As part of this declaration, I have also stated that all roads are closed to traffic other than emergency and essential personnel," said Newcom. "The county and state highway departments were experiencing difficulty with traffic running our plowing equipment off the road and keeping us hung up more than plowing. I will open roads to all traffic once we have had a chance to clear some of the roadways to the point of being safe for road personnel and drivers alike."

Newcom has closed the courthouse for business today. It does remain open, however, as a warming center throughout this storm event.

Marion City Hall is also closed today.

City Administrator Mark Bryant reports very few businesses are open across town. In addition to grocery stores planning to close this evening, Marion's only 24-hour business, Five Star Food Mart, will be closing at 6 p.m., Bryant said.

However, Bryant said city-maintained streets are in remarkably good condition.

Gov. Steve Beshear's declaration of a state of emergency for all of Kentucky was issued earlier today from Frankfort, where more than a foot of snow was recorded.

“Two significant winter storms nearly back-to-back are rare in Kentucky and pose a challenge for our emergency management teams, road crews and local emergency responders. This emergency declaration will allow us to deploy any needed state assistance, including National Guard troops if necessary, without delay,” said Gov. Beshear.

Snow accumulations are approaching up to 20 inches in some parts of Kentucky. Rain and sleet preceded the snow, making pre-treating roads impossible. Road crews working to clear highways and interstates were hampered by the fast-falling snow, which re-covered roads almost as quickly as they were plowed. As a result, roads across the state are in poor to treacherous condition.

The statewide declaration allows local officials immediate access to state resources to assist in public safety and recovery efforts. The National Guard has been activated to several locations to support emergency response efforts.

A statewide emergency declaration does not create mandatory closings for schools or businesses. Residents should monitor local media for announcements of school or work closings. Employees should consult their employers’ policies regarding inclement weather for guidance on attendance or leave time.

A separate emergency order issued by the governor will alleviate certain trucking restrictions so that vehicles carrying emergency supplies may travel through the state more quickly.

Gov. Beshear and state officials remind drivers that it is extremely important to avoid travel if possible so road crews can salt and plow interstates and major highways. He encouraged citizens to check on elderly neighbors.

The storm brings other dangers as well. Yesterday’s warm temperatures, snow melt and rain caused flooding in several areas before the snow began to fall. Heavy snow accumulations may also cause power outages or roof collapses.

As many as 28 power outages in Crittenden County have been reported by Kenergy Corp. Crews were out overnight working on the problems as they arose. By 10:50 a.m., all but four of the electric cooperative's outages had been remedied across it's 14-county service area, including all in Crittenden County.

Kentucky Utilities Co. reports no current outages in Marion and the rural portions of the county it serves. KU's website does not report the number of outages that may have already been addressed.