Winter storm heading for Central Appalachia
By MICHAEL BROWNING Executive Editor
PIKEVILLE, Ky. Eastern Kentucky and portions of West Virginia are in the path of a winter storm predicted to hit the region beginning tonight and continuing into Wednesday.
According to the National Weather Service in Jackson, a winter storm warning has already been issued for most of Eastern Kentucky with Pike County and other easternmost counties to bear the brunt of the storm.
As of presstime, models showed the far western portion of Pike County along Floyd and Letcher counties could expect two to six inches of snow while the rest of the county along the Virginia and West Virginia borders may see up to four to 10 inches of snow.
The models plot the worst portion of the winter storm event producing the most significant amounts of snow to swath a path diagonally from Pike County across the center of West Virginia.
Brandon Roberts, media specialist for the Pike County judge-executive's office, said Pike County is bracing for a snowfall of four to 10 inches. Roberts said early reports are calling for heavy, wet snow.
He said county officials would be having a meeting today to finalize the county's plans for the weather event.
The National Weather Service in Charleston has yet to issue a storm waring but has all of West Virginia under a special weather statement.
Jarrod Fletcher, director of the Mingo County Office of Emergency Management Services, said he is expecting Mingo County to also fall within the four to eight inch portion of the storm's path. He said while models are preliminary and are subject to change depending on the track the low pressure system forming out of the Gulf of Mexico takes.
The storming is currently tracking to trek from the Gulf through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Central Appalachia.
The Jackson Weather Service winter storm warning stated:
"A large storm system moving out of the Gulf of Mexico and along the Appalachias will send a large amount of moisture into Eastern Kentucky late Tuesday night through Wednesday night.
"Rain on Tuesday evening will change into snow overnight," the warning continued. "Sleet could mix with snow at time. Snowfall, from four to 10 inches, is expected to be heavy and wet."
The National Weather Service's winter storm warning for Eastern Kentucky and the special weather statement for West Virginia both advise of hazardous road conditions and the threat of downed trees and power lines because of the significant amounts of heavy snow expected.
"We (the Pike County Fiscal Court) are ready ... as always," Roberts said. "Our salt trucks are already loaded."
Sara George, public information officer for the Kentucky Department of Highways District 12, responded in kind.
"Our salt domes have been replenished and we have multiple suppliers of salt," she said. "We have 76 salt spreaders/snow plows throughout the district. They are all routinely maintained with sharpened snow plows and new windshield wipers and are ready when needed."
George said District 12's fleet and equipment is in good shape and ready for the predicted snowfall, however, the hardship for District 12 is human resources.
"We are blessed. Our people do the best job of anyone," she said. "But recently, we have been having some sort of weather event every week people are just getting tired."
Winter weather events put District 12 snow fighting personnel on 12-hour shifts and has them on call at all times.
During Friday's public groundbreaking for the new U.S. 460, which will create a four-lane highway between Pikeville and the Breaks Interstate Park in Virginia, Kevin Damron, chief district engineer, praised road crews who had to clear snow that day. He spoke of their dedication as crews were called away from their homes and family celebrations to fight snowfall on Christmas day.
George called the road crews her "heroes."
Fletcher agreed with Kentucky officials, "We are ready for about anything that can happen."
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