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New round brings ice, snow to local area

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

Those looking forward to the beginning of spring when the calendar turned to March were greeted with another round of winter weather, ice-covered roadways and frigid temperatures.

Freezing rain and sleet came into the local area under a winter storm warning early Sunday afternoon, resulting in a 0.8 glazing of ice on outdoor surfaces, according to National Weather Service Paducah meteorologist Dan Spaeth. He said precipitation changed to sleet in the later afternoon, then to a mixture of sleet and snow about 9 p.m. before becoming snow overnight.

Spaeth said residents should expect to wake up today to significant snow coverage of five to six inches. That amount could be as much as a foot depending on what time freezing rain changes to sleet and snow. Snow should stop falling several hours after sunrise.

"That's a conservative number," he said. "The change-over could happen faster, which has been the trend with this system."

Frigid temperatures will keep the precipitation on the ground through Wednesday. Throughout the day, residents will see high temperatures around 21 degrees and low temperatures about 12 degrees before dipping into single-digit temperatures overnight. Winds gusts of between 15 and 20 mph will make the wind chill below zero degrees today.

Temperatures on Tuesday will remain below freezing with highs around 30 degrees before reaching the highs 30s on Wednesday. Spaeth cautioned residents that a thin layer of ice will be present once snow is removed or melts from exterior surfaces.

The unusual component of this type of weather system late into winter is the arctic air mass that doesn't allow precipitation to melt quickly due to below freezing temperatures. The typical temperatures for this time of year hover around 54 degrees for highs and 34 degrees for lows, according to Spaeth. Following the snow fall today, the area should avoid winter weather in the immediate future with just a chance of rain this weekend.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet crews worked throughout Sunday to treat roads in all the Purchase area counties, according to spokesman Keith Todd. He said supervisors began patrolling streets and highways in the morning and calling in crews as needed. He added that roadways had been pretreated with salt in anticipation of the weather event.

He said ice causes road conditions to deteriorate quickly, seen Sunday with roadways declining from wet to icy and treacherous. The presence of ice also limits the speed and effectiveness in improving driving conditions. Officials warned residents to avoid unnecessary travel through the beginning of the week.

A semi-truck wrecked about 5 p.m. Sunday, blocking the eastbound lanes of I-24 for about an hour at the Cumberland River Bridge. Todd also reported several cars off the roadways throughout the day.

McCracken County Emergency Management Director Jerome Mansfield said the county didn't see any damage other than one downed tree as of Sunday night due to the storm. He said crews across the region and county emergency management staff members were on stand-by throughout the night. McCracken County Sgt. Michael Wray reported several incidents of cars off the roadway or in ditches but no major accidents Sunday.

The Dorena-Hickman Ferry was closed Sunday morning due to icy conditions on the landing ramps and barge. Capt. Ed Floyd will evaluate conditions on a day-to-day basis to determine when to resume operations.

McCracken County Public Schools and Paducah Public Schools along with Ballard County, Graves County, Livingston County, Lyon County, Marshall County, Calloway County, Murray Independent, Mayfield Independent, Community Christian Academy and Saint Mary School System canceled school today. The Murray State University main campus and all regional locations are also closed today.

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

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