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Area braces for ice, snow

BY LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

True to the saying, March will come in like a lion in western Kentucky, blasting the winter-weary region with another round of arctic air and precipitation.

The National Weather Service in Paducah expects the cold front to arrive near daybreak today, with temperatures falling to the low 20s by evening. Rain early in the day will change to freezing rain or sleet, which may glaze surfaces with anywhere from a half inch to two-thirds of an inch of ice. The area is expected to receive between four to six inches of snow overnight, meteorologist Dan Spaeth said.

"From an ice standpoint, it'll be just about as bad as anything we've seen this season," he said.

Spaeth said the forecast is fairly consistent for Ballard, McCracken and Massac counties. Caldwell, Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Lyon and Marshall counties, which are under an ice storm warning from 3 p.m. today until 9 a.m. Monday, may see more ice - up to three-quarters of an inch, he added.

The level of ice accumulation could lead to fallen tree branches and power outages, Spaeth said. Travel is highly discouraged, and road conditions likely won't improve on Monday, which will see a high in the low 20s, or Tuesday, which will bring temperatures around 30. But temperatures could inch above freezing on Wednesday, he added.

"It's a mess," Spaeth said.

The forecast has put locals back in preparation mode, with hardware stores and grocers seeing a flood of business.

"We are currently overrun," Sean Fellows, assistant manager at Banks Market, said Saturday afternoon. "It's a grocer's dream, and this winter has been just an absolute great thing for food retailers."

Fellows said bread, milk, and ground meats were flying off the shelves. The store had yet to run out of anything Saturday afternoon, but shortages do happen, he added.

"Anything that people would buy on a nearly daily basis, they just hammer us on those things."

He expected the store to stay busy until the precipitation hits tonight.

At Hank Brothers True Value Hardware, propane, kerosene, rock salt, snow shovels and heaters were in high demand since the forecast, co-owner Jim Hank said. He expected to run out of salt by the end of Saturday.

"A lot of people are just trying to be smart and get supplies in case they get snowed in," he said.

Both retailers noted that shoppers seem to focus more on winter readiness since the ice storm of 2009.

"People tend to be a little more frightened by ice than if it was just a snow event," Fellows said. "It was a devastating storm for our area, so people still have that in the back of their minds any time they hear that ice is part of the forecast."

Winter storm warnings on Saturday were also in effect for areas along and northwest of a line from Van Buren to Cape Girardeau, Mo., and on to Fairfield, Ill., from midnight Saturday to 6 a.m. Monday. Snowfall and up to a half-inch of ice were also expected in southern Illinois after midnight Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

"Everybody's on edge. It's March; everybody wants it to be spring, and nobody more than your local meteorologist," Spaeth said.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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