icestorm 2009

WESTERN KENTUCKY (3/2/14) ― With temperatures dropping below freezing, thunder rumbling in the distance and plenty of moisture in the forms of fog, drizzle and rain, it's safe to say winter storm warnings should be heeded as western Kentucky prepares for more dreaded ice.

According to the National Weather Service in Paducah, it's currently 32 in Paducah, 31 degrees in Madisonville, Central City, Livermore and Owensboro, 34 in Greenville,  28 in Sebree and in Henderson.

A link to the NWS is scrolling at the top of the SurfKY News page in the red ticker. Clicking on the red ticker will link to the latest weather updates.

NWS reports that freezing rain is expected to occur off and on through much of today and may become heavy at times this evening. Thunder is also possible as freezing rain changes over to sleet and snow later tonight before ending midday Monday.

Heavy ice accumulations from half inch to one inch are likely before the precipitation turns to snow later tonight.

With that heavy ice comes the likelihood of tree damage and possible power outages. Travel will become more treacherous as temperatures fall well below freezing later today and tonight. High winds tonight will make travel treacherous and could cause more tree breakage.

The Kentucky State Police has issued a caution to motorists about the impending storm. In a press release, KSP is asking citizens to refrain form contacting local KSP posts about current concitions but call (866) 737-3767 or 511 from a mobile phone for road conditions. Information is also available at www.511.ky.gov.

The city of Owensboro has been placed under a winter storm warning now through Monday. Its street department crews are treating roads and plan to work around the clock. During a state of emergency, city officials warn that vehicles parked on Priority 1 and 2 emergency routes are prohibited with those vehicles possibly being towed at the owner's expense.

If a declared emergency is made in Owensboro, emergency shelters may be opened at First Baptist Church, 230 J.R. Miller Boulevard; Owensboro Christian Church, 2818 New Hartford Road; and, Good Shepherd Church, 3031 Bittle Road.

According to Kentucky Transportation Department spokesman Keith Todd, ice began collecting on trees as of approximately 10 a.m. in several areas throughout western Kentucky. While ambient air temperatures have dropped below freezing, pavement temperatures benefitted from sunshine and warmer temperatures over the last few days with pavement surfaces remaining about 38 degrees. Pavement temperatures are expected to drop throughout the day.

As of 10 a.m., Todd reports that Union County has sleet and slick sports are being created. He also reports freezing rain in Paducah and Madisonville.

The Public Service Commission is urging caution to residents experiencing power outages, when using portable generators and in removing storm debris. The following is part of a news release from the PSC:

The PSC is reminding Kentucky residents to stay away from all downed lines. Downed lines should be reported to the local utility company. If the lines are sparking, on fire or otherwise creating an emergency, call 911.

Customers who lose power should follow proper safety precautions if they use portable generators or heating devices, PSC Chairman David Armstrong said. “Fortunately, this storm is forecast to be much less severe than in the one in 2009,” Armstrong said. “Nevertheless, it has the potential to cause some serious power outages.

“As we have learned from previous storms, improper use of portable generators can be extremely dangerous,” he said. “Many Kentuckians have lost their lives, and many others have been hospitalized, as the result of being poisoned by carbon monoxide emitted by portable generators that were not used correctly.”

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning or fire hazards:

  • Generators should only be operated outside in well-ventilated areas and never in a garage, basement or breezeway.
  • Do not operate generators near windows, doors or in other areas where exhaust fumes could be drawn into a home or other occupied structure.
  • Do not use charcoal grills, gas grills or other open-flame devices indoors for heating or cooking.
  • Use only portable heaters certified for indoor use. They should be placed in well-ventilated areas and kept well away from combustible materials.
  • To prevent fires, generators should never be refueled while they are running. Refuel only after the generator has been turned off and allowed to cool.

The PSC also is reminding electric customers who use a portable generator of electric safety guidelines that will protect them and those working to restore power. Keys to safe operation of generators include:

  • Make sure a generator is properly sized for the load you will place on it. Remember that starting an electric motor, such as a refrigerator or air conditioner compressor, requires more electricity than the amount needed to keep it running. DO NOT OVERLOAD YOUR GENERATOR.
  • Use only three-prong, grounded extension cords, properly rated for the load, to connect appliances to generators.
  • DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FEED POWER INTO YOUR HOME BY ADAPTING AN EXTENSION CORD TO CONNECT A GENERATOR TO A WALL OUTLET. THIS CAN CAUSE A FIRE.
  • DO NOT CONNECT A GENERATOR TO INSIDE WIRING IN ANY WAY UNLESS YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS IS EQUIPPED WITH A TRANSFER SWITCH THAT PREVENTS POWER FROM FLOWING BACK INTO (BACKFEEDING) THE WIRES THAT SUPPLY YOUR ELECTRICITY.

Backfeeding poses a severe danger to workers attempting to restore electrical service. They can be severely injured or killed by power flowing back into lines which they assume are not carrying electricity. Also, if the line to your home or business becomes grounded, backfeeding can permanently damage your generator.

Customers who lose power should contact their utility company immediately. Most utilities in Kentucky have systems that use customer reports to help identify the location of the problem and determine what repairs are needed.

“It is important that every customer call to report an outage,” Armstrong said. “But repeated calls simply tie up the utility’s phone system. Call at once, but call only once.”

Customers who lose power also should check electric connections and meters for damage. Damaged connections or meters must be repaired before power can be restored to a home or business.

“It is critical that damaged connections be repaired by a qualified professional and inspected before power is restored,” Armstrong said. “In past outages, fires and severe damage have been caused by damaged or improperly repaired service connections.”

 Repairing a service connection or meter base is the responsibility of the individual customer. The meter base is the square or rectangular box on which the meter itself is mounted. It belongs to the property owner. The meter itself – the circular, glass-enclosed portion that attaches to the meter base - is the property of the utility company.

Customers with damaged connections or meters should take the following steps:

  • Notify the utility company that the service connection, meter base and/or meter is damaged. The utility can then make sure that the line is not energized until repairs are completed.
  • In the event that only the meter itself is damaged, contact the utility to have it repaired or replaced and your service restored.
  • Contact an electrician to repair the meter base or service connection. The repair work can be done prior to power being restored in an area, thus eliminating any additional delays.
  • The electrician will obtain the proper meter base from the utility. Some utilities impose no charge for the meter base, but the customer will bear the installation cost.
  • Have the repairs inspected by a state-certified inspector working for your local government. The electrician should be able to help arrange the inspection.
  • Notify the utility when the repairs are complete and have been approved. A utility technician will install a new meter and restore the power.
  • Keep all repair records and contact your property insurer.

Residents SHOULD NOT attempt to remove any branches, limbs or trees that have fallen across service connections or other utility lines. Notify the utility to arrange for the debris to be removed.

“We know that the very cold weather makes these utility disruptions particularly unpleasant and dangerous,” Armstrong said. “We urge people to be patient and to take proper precautions to protect their health and safety while they wait for power to be restored.”

Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director

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