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June 2012
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Dangerous winter weather

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

Predictions of snow accumulation didn't come to fruition around the local area, but potential dangers still exist due to Sunday's freezing rain and the arctic cold temperatures, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm system projected to hit the region moved in a northwestern direction along the Ohio River, resulting in large-scale snowfall in Illinois and Missouri. The local area did see freezing rain, sleet and wind gusts around 30 mph Sunday. Due to the plummeting temperatures set to continue through Wednesday, moisture will remain frozen to surfaces and roads, NWS meteorologist Kelly Hooper said.

Temperatures will hit a low about sunrise today of around -2 degrees and will only rise to about 2 degrees throughout the day Monday and into the night. Tuesday temperatures will increase into the teens and remain steady, reaching near freezing Wednesday and then above the freezing mark Thursday. Wind chills are projected between -20, near the Tennessee-Kentucky border, and -30 degrees, adjacent to the I-64 corridor, Hooper said.

"The wind chill and extreme cold temperatures are the biggest threat to life and property," he said.

A second system is set to begin with snow falling Wednesday into Thursday morning and then change to freezing rain and sleet. The precipitation will then change to liquid rain as temperatures move above freezing late Thursday.

The frigid wind and cold temperatures represent one of the greatest dangers to the safety and well-being of residents. Hooper said wind chills in the range of -20 to -30 increase the chance of frostbite after less than 30 minutes of exposure to the elements.

Roadways will be dangerous due to the low temperatures prohibiting melting or crews from treating the ice. Several area bridges began to ice as temperatures sharply dropped below freezing and into the teens Sunday, according to Hooper.

"Freezing rain is always a danger to pedestrians and motorists," he said. "We anticipate numerous accidents, so if you don't have to travel, stay home."

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said although many area counties missed the bulk of the winter precipitation Sunday, road officials remain concerned about the potential for moisture on highways to flash freeze. Due to quickly dropping temperatures, the quality of roads and driving conditions could deteriorate in less than 30 minutes.

Officials treated roads in all region one counties Sunday afternoon but ice-fighting chemicals including salt are ineffective in temperatures lower than about 20 degrees. The work of crews to clear roadways will be limited until around Wednesday. Motorists should prepare for any possible hazard and avoid unnecessary travel during times of extreme cold, Todd said.

Paducah fire chief Steve Kyle lists essential travel supplies as - an ice scraper, flashlight, a charged cellular phone, cold-weather clothing, blankets and a product such as cat box filler to help provide traction beneath tires.

Kyle also provided several tips to avoid house fires, including - keeping heaters at least three feet away from combustibles, refraining from leaving portable space heaters, candles or other heating devices unattended and using caution when attempting to thaw frozen pipes.

United Airlines canceled flights in and out of Barkley Regional Airport for today and Tuesday due to the effect of freezing temperatures and icing at other airports. The Dorena-Hickman Ferry closed Saturday due to high winds with gusts reported at 30 to 35 mph. The ferry will remain closed until wind speeds decrease, according to Capt. Ed Floyd.

A local warming center is open on all nights with temperatures less than 32 degrees. The January center is located at Washington Street Missionary Baptist Church at 721 Washington St., with an entrance by the Christian Life Center. The facility will be open from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. For safety doors will be locked at 10 p.m. Other local warming stations locations include -  from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Reidland Baptist Church, 5559 Benton Road, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the McCracken County Rescue Vehicle Building, 3700 Coleman Road and the McCracken County Courthouse, 300 S. Seventh St., according to Lori Thompson with the McCracken County Office of Emergency Management.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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