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Region digs out from late-winter snow

By Leanne Fullerlfuller@paducahsun.com

Yet another bout of cold, wintry weather visited the Paducah area Sunday, and the coating of snow and ice it left on roads Monday closed area businesses, schools and government agencies.

In West Paducah, the National Weather Service recorded an eighth of an inch of freezing rain and 51⁠2 inches of sleet and snow - about half of which was sleet - according to meteorologist Rachel Trevino.

Trevino said 4 to 5 inches of snow or sleet were recorded at various places in the region, and some areas received a quarter inch of ice. She added that southeast Missouri received 6 or more inches of snow and sleet, and sleet in the 3-  to 4-inch range was recorded in the Pennyrile.

Several Paducah businesses closed Monday because of icy travel conditions, including the Kentucky Oaks Mall, which is scheduled to reopen with its usual hours today.

The mall, owned by Cafaro Company, previously closed because of weather at 4 p.m. on Dec. 6. Cafaro Director of Corporate Communications Joe Bell said this winter is the first in recent memory that the mall has had to close for the weather.

"It's probably been 10 years or more since we had to close because of weather," Bell said. "That just shows you what kind of a strange winter we've been having. It's just been, for lack of a better word, freaky."

Banks Market in Lone Oak, which saw an increase in business during the weekend as customers prepared for the storm, saw steady business Monday morning despite icy roads that kept some employees at home, according to store manager Beth Dycus.

Dycus said the only item the grocery store ran out of was rock salt, and she characterized the traffic as typical for a winter storm. Not so typical, Dycus said, is the fact that the store - usually open 24 hours a day - had to close Sunday night for the safety of its employees, and would likely close again Monday night. 

"Usually we don't close... for any circumstance, and we've closed a couple of times this winter," Dycus said.

Most area schools were closed Monday, and McCracken and Paducah are among those closed today. All campuses of Murray State University remain closed today after closing Monday, and West Kentucky Community & Technical College is closed as well.

Paducah City Hall was closed Monday, and McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden said the county's circuit and district court judges canceled all court Monday and the judge-executive closed the courthouse.

A statewide tornado drill that was scheduled for today as part of Kentucky's Severe Weather Awareness Week - from March 2 through March 8 this year - was postponed until 9:07 a.m. CST Wednesday because of the weather.

The release states that tornado drill participants can visit http://kyem.ky.gov for more information about Severe Weather Awareness Week, weather preparedness and to complete a survey to help local and state officials prepare people for severe weather events.

Trevino said the weekend's weather event played out largely as the NWS expected, but she said it was pleased to see less freezing rain than expected.

"Sleet's a lot less troublesome to power lines and tree limbs and things," Trevino said.

Paducah Power System spokeswoman Andrea Underwood said that while the sleet is not great for roads, it represents a bullet dodged for the electric company, when it comes to keeping the lights on. Underwood said PPS saw no outages Sunday night.

West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation spokesperson Jamie Sears said the system was stable throughout the storm, with one or two minor outages reported that may or may not have been weather related and that the company was able to resolve.

"We have been very, very fortunate," Sears said.

Jackson Purchase Energy Corporation also had an uneventful Sunday night, according to vice president of human resources and member relations Izell White.

White said as far as she knew JPEC had one small incident Sunday night, and the crew the company sent out was able to resolve the issue within minutes.

"We were braced for the worst," White said, "but fortunate that it didn't happen."

Trevino said "a nice, gradual warmup" is expected. The meteorologist said the high temperature today should be around 30 degrees, and highs are expected to reach the upper 30s by Wednesday and 50 degrees by Friday.

A couple of precipitation outbreaks are predicted this week, but Trevino characterized both as "piddly."

Trevino said a mix of rain and snow is expected Wednesday night in amounts the weather service isn't too concerned about. She said there is a chance of rain for Saturday that could end in a mix of rain and snow Saturday night, with a dusting of snow.

Trevino said temperatures are expected to stay at or above freezing on Saturday, and may reach 50 Sunday.

The meteorologist cautioned that even though warming temperatures should lead to some melting of the ice coating roads during the day Wednesday and Thursday, overnight lows will be below freezing and can cause roads to refreeze.

Trevino said she hopes after Saturday the area can head out of winter and into spring.

Contact Leanne Fuller, Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.

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