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Shelby County schools back in session on Wednesday

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Low temps of about -3 greeted most residents on Tuesday

By Lisa King

Shelby Countians awoke Tuesday to temperatures as low as -3, with chill factors lower than -20, but a warming trend expected for today will send students back to classes for the first time since Dec. 20.

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Temperatures climbed toward the teens on Tuesday afternoon as sunshine continued and winds diminished, and that trend was expected to "moderate" there on Wednesday Most school districts in the area, which had taken off on Monday and Tuesday, announced classes would resume.

Government offices that had been closed on Monday -- such as the Shelby County Judicial Center and the sheriff's office -- were open on Tuesday, despite termperatures being even colder. Snow and slick roads never were a problem as the worst of the "polar vortex" storm that consumed most of the nation tooks its greatest wrather on a swipe to the north.

Still that howling winter winds had emergency planners on guard Sunday.

Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Whitman said Sunday afternoon that emergency services personnel are getting ready to tackle the storm.

He said fire departments are staffing extra personnel and emergency services were rounding up vehicles with 4-wheel drive to accompany ambulances on runs overnight when roads were expected to turn slick and hazardous.

"It started to rain about half an hour ago, and that will freeze quickly tonight, and if we have snow on top of that, it could make for some very hazardous travel conditions," he said around 5:30.

"Right now, we have instituted 'Operation Snow,'Co" he said, adding that term is the lowest level of emergency preparedness for emergency services personnel.

"And if it gets worse than we expect, we'll take it to the next level." Whitman said that winds are already picking up and the forecast is calling for wind gust of up to 25 miles per hour or more, as well as temperatures dipping down to near zero, and wind chills of even lower.

Shelby County Road Supervisor Carl Henry said his crews were expected to work starting at 5 p.m.

"I've been watching it [forecast] like a hawk," he said. "Right now, it's just rainng and forty-one degrees, and then at about seven or eight o'clock tonight, the temperature is supposed to plummet. As soon as I see the temperature reach thirty-two degrees, I am going to start applicating [putting salt down]."

He said the previous forecast of 3 inches for the Shelby County area has been lowered to about an inch of snow, but he said the worse thing will be the cold temperatures.

"It's going to be frigid, frigid, frigid," he said. "That's what we're really going to dealing with."

Coincidentally, on Thursday night, the Shelbyville City Council passed a resolution calling this week “winter weather preparedness week.”

“I told them [city council members] to pick a week that they thought would be good to promote awareness of the hazards of severe winter weather, and this is the week they chose,” Whitman said.

The proclamation, announced by Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty at Thursday night’s meeting of the city council,  recognizes that each year dozens of Americans die from exposure to cold temperatures, that inclement winter weather causes fires from unsafe heaters, as well as vehicle accidents.

The document adds that the vast majority of winter weather fatalities can be avoided with proper preventative action, and that the key to that is through education and awareness, Whitman said.

He plans to spend this week doing just that, with one activity being a trip to Southside Elementary School to give a talk about the dangers of winter weather.

“I am also going to be sending out weather alerts and tips, something I have been doing anyway,” he said, adding that he has gotten a lot of feedback from people who said the advice has been very beneficial to them.