January 21, 2013

County ready for snow, winter weather

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The lights were on at the state garage Monday night and crews were already preparing for the forecast of a “wintery mix” of rain and sleet.

Ditto for city and county road crews, who have deemed themselves lucky with the mild temperatures that have marked this year’s winter weather.

“The trucks are fueled and loaded and we’ve had crews out to pre-treat the roads with salt,” said Jonathan Dobson, public relations director for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Manchester office said Monday. “We’re not anticipating a crippling snow, but it could be icy, so we’ve already prepped some of the roads.”

Indeed, road crews with the state, city and county have had a rather lax season thus far, with only one incident in which road crews were out to prepare the roads for motorists. However, forecasts of an “arctic blast” of cold weather for the week and continuing into next week could put the crews out in full force if snow and ice become a problem.

One advantage for state road crews is equipment that records the temperature of the road surface. Dobson said this high tech equipment has been standard for several years and allows better predictions of road conditions.

“It’s definitely an advantage and gives us an idea of real time conditions,” he added.

Laurel County Judge Executive David Westerfield began preparing for bad weather when he took office in 2010. Over the past two years, the county has purchased several trucks and snow plows to combat snow and ice, with Westerfield crediting this effort as one reason Laurel County schools were in attendance when surrounding counties remained dismissed due to wintery roads.

“We’ve got 400 tons of salt. That’s enough to deal with three major snows,” Westerfield said, adding that the county now has 20 pieces of snow removal equipment.

“We have enough equipment to clear the roads much quicker and our workforce know that they are on call 24 hours a day if we do get snow,” he added.

Like many others, Westerfield shuddered when predictions of ice and possible snow headlined the weather broadcasts this past week and predictions of another cold week ahead.

“We’re very much prepared,” he said. “In a very short amount of time, (our crews) can be out. We’re ready. We haven’t had to go out this year so far, and I only hope we don’t have to.”

While the city streets number fewer than either the county or state and some main roads in the city falling under the state’s jurisdiction to maintain, Steve Edge with the City Streets, Sanitation and Recycling division, said if bad weather comes, the city is prepared.

“We’ve got six salters and trucks and liquid brine to pre-treat,” Edge said. “We’re under contract with the state garage for salt, so we’re ready if we need it.”

Edge added city crews do not just go out at the early threat of winter weather. Instead, officers with the city police department monitor road conditions and notify Laurel Dispatch of any potential hazards. Dispatch personnel then send out messages to the street crews.

“But everyone can rest easy,” Edge said. “We’re ready if we need to be.”