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Shelby County sloshes throw snow and ice

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By Lisa King

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After working all day Monday salting and plowing, the roads of Shelby County were in pretty good shape Tuesday, Road Supervisor Carl Henry said.

"We were out all night and we got about an inch of snow in town, and as much as four inches about 15 miles out down the interstate," he said.

The winter storm that remained into Tuesday evening left the county with a blanket of snow and ice, and temperatures barely strayed above freezing, which caused some treacherous driving and walking conditions.

No serious accidents were reported, but some drivers did have to be rescued from ditches by tow trucks.

Such conditions caused Shelby County Public Schools and Cornerstone Christian Academy to cancel classes on Tuesday. And athletic events were canceled for Tuesday night.

Superintendent James Neihof said Tuesday that district personnel would be checking the roads "bright and early tomorrow morning [today]" to see if it were possible to have school. He said Tuesday afternoon that the weather forecast "is a little in our favor, but not a lot."

Commuters also were delayed Tuesday in areas south and east of Shelby County. As much as 4 inches fell in Spencer County and nearly that much was on the ground around Lexington. Problems were much more prevalent in those areas.

But local road officials felt like they responded quickly and effectively.

Henry said his crew ended up using about 200 tons of salt Tuesday. And although he expects to use no more than that on this storm, the vigil is not over yet.

"We're still getting some snow from the south west, but we're monitoring the radar and we'll be ready for whatever comes our way," he said.

Henry added that he was surprised by the caution used by drivers.

"I was very impressed," he said. "Except for one minor fender-bender, I did not see or hear of any serious accidents. People are evidently being very careful and driving more slowly."

Gayle Renfro with the road department said late Tuesday afternoon that the roads were in good shape and the radar was forecasting a clearing of the weather.

"We have plowed and salted and are in good shape," he said.

Andrea Clifford, spokesperson for Transportation Cabinet's District 5 in Shelby County, said that interstate crews were also out all night Monday and Tuesday morning and had cleared the interstate considerably.

"Our crews have salted and plowed all night in Shelby County, and everything is clear except that there are still some icy patches, so people should use extreme caution," she said. "There wasn't too much precipitation in Shelby, but Franklin County got about four inches."

Clifford said that in addition to the interstate, primary roads such as U.S 60 and Ky. 53 are also in pretty good shape.

"But some secondary roads such as 362 and Ky. 43 are probably only partially cleared,"

she said.

Shelbyville Public Works Director Al Minnis said Tuesday afternoon that the city's streets  were not too bad, except for  a layer of mush.  "If it doesn't refreeze, we'll be OK, and the weather is supposed to warm up a little," he said.

Henry's crew hit the road as early as Monday afternoon after hearing a prediction of a winter snowstorm by the National Weather Service - "We have weather radar right here in the office," he said - and that his staff employed a different tactic on snow this year.

"We are going to use salt, as always, but we are going to be as conservative as possible," he said. "So we are going to plow, plow, plow."

Henry recently purchased the winter's supply of road salt at a much higher price this year, about twice as much as last year.  He is also going to use brine, a substance that consists of water and salt, that will also be applied to the roads. The mixture-consisting of a 23 percent salt base-will help to stretch the salt supply, Henry said.

Both the cities of Simpsonville and Shelbyville will also use brine and will purchase it from the county. Henry is proud of his brine-making machine, which he said he put together for only $5,000.

"If you bought this baby new, it would cost you at least $25,000," he said, patting the machine.

Al Minnis, Shelbyville public works director, said his trucks put down brine on Friday, so city roads still have some of the substance on them.

"The time to do it is a day or two before the storm gets here, so it won't get all washed off," he said.

 Brian Romine, Simpsonville public works director, also had his crew ready.

"We have three trucks and two people, now how about that?" he said, laughing. "But seriously, if he is needed, the mayor will man the third truck; he has done that before and he does really well to help take up the slack."

Simpsonville's crew is responsible for 12 miles of road, Romine said, adding that Simpsonville police will keep the crew informed about the condition of the roads.

"They will let us know where the worse areas are, and we will take care of them," he said.

Like Minnis and Henry, Romine is excited about the new brine system.

"We will purchase brine from the county when we need it," he said.

Henry said his crew takes care of 300 miles of county roads, and a state crew will take care of state roads.

He added that doing more plowing and less salting will be a lot cheaper than putting down more salt.

"Plowing more will wear down blades faster, but you can get a new blade for about eighty-five dollars, and a new one will last for at least three bad snow storms," he

said.  "And as for manpower, it won't cost any more. They will be out there anyway, whether they're salting or plowing, it will be the same difference."

Henry said there's a time to plow and a time to salt.

"After the storm is done and it's daylight, that's the time to really start salting, because at nighttime, the salt doesn't work as well as it does during the daylight," he

said.

 Clifford said people can check the status of roads online at www.transportation.ky.gov/maintenance. After accessing the site, click on snow and ice removal priority maps. However, Acrobat Reader is required to download the maps.

"A" roads are the interstates and primary roads, "B" roads are secondary roads and "C" roads are the lesser traveled roads.

 

Staff writer Nathan L. McBroom contributed to this report.