Motorists are being advised to avoid overnight travel in parts of Western Kentucky. The National Weather Service has issued a Blizzard Warning and a Winter Storm Warning for the region. The storm is expected to create brutal driving conditions as it sweeps across about two dozen Kentucky counties.
The forecast includes 20 mile per hour winds with gusts to 45 mph starting around midnight and continuing until about Noon on Wednesday. Transportation Cabinet Spokesman Keith Todd says weather conditons are going to be so brutal, that it will limit the ability of highway crews to impact driving conditons during the overnight hours and into Wednesday morning.
"With winds gusting above 20 miles per hour, we're looking at conditions where a snow plow can travel a section of roadway and 20 minutes later you may not be able to tell it has been there," Todd said. "The high winds and forecast for wet heavy snow also create an opportunity for downed trees and downed power lines along highways in the region. We also have the prospect of drifting snow to add to travel issues. We are advising the public to avoid travel from about 10 p.m., CST, tonight, through about Noon on Wednesday, or until the storm subsides."
In their weather briefing on Monday, the National Weather Serivce compared the approaching winter storm to events of Christmas Week 2004. During that storm an overturned truck on Interstate 24 caused a traffic back-up that halted traffic for 37 hours and creating a life-threatening situation for motorists stranded in mounting snow drifts.
"We want motorists to be aware of what they're getting into if they venture out into this storm," Todd noted. "While not as large, this storm compares with a blizzard that hit the northern plains a few weeks ago and halted traffic along an extended section of I-90. We're talking whiteout conditions and very limited visibility. Please do not take this storm lightly."
KY highway crews prepared and loaded salt trucks last Friday so they could be prepared to roll out quickly as the storm develops. Supervisors will start monitoring highways as the storm moves into Kentucky this evening and call in crews as road conditions require. Engineers anticpate most crews being active by about midnight, based on the NWS forecast.
Snow accumulations are expected to range from 4 to 10 inches across much of the region. Still, Todd says it will be the wind that dictates road conditions more than accumulations.