Gov. Andy Beshear has declared a state of emergency ahead of an arctic front that is expected to bring a flash freeze and severely cold temperatures, with rain changing to snow Thursday night across much of the Commonwealth. Temperatures may stay below freezing through the Christmas holiday and into early next week.
The front is also expected to produce wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph on Friday and wind chills could reach minus 10 to minus 26 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday. The front is expected to affect travel, and other impacts may include broken waterlines, power outages and damage to public infrastructure and private properties.
Gov. Beshear said his administration has been in contact with county officials to help open warming centers for local residents in need, and Kentucky State Parks will also serve as a backup warming centers.
The Governor also asked Kentuckians to make a plan to have a backup heat source in place and to make a vehicle kit. A large priority for the administration is to make sure those sheltering in travel trailers in Eastern Kentucky are safe and warm.
If necessary, Kentucky State Parks is prepared to offer emergency shelter at Jenny Wiley or Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park for those currently in travel trailers. For park updates and closures, Kentuckians can visit parks.ky.gov.
“Flash freeze is a big concern, and it will lead to dangerous road conditions,” Gov. Beshear said. “If you are traveling for Christmas, please plan to arrive at your destination by midday Thursday. After floods, tornadoes, ice storms and everything else we have faced, we don’t want to lose anyone to this weather front. Please make a plan and get prepared, and make a list of people you need to check in on, especially during this Christmas holiday.”
The Governor also activated the state’s price gouging laws to protect families from grossly overpriced goods and services. With the state of emergency in place, consumers in the commonwealth can report price gouging to the Office of the Attorney General and under state law, price gougers can be held accountable.
Kentucky Emergency Management (KYEM), the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), Kentucky State Police (KSP) and the Kentucky National Guard are all taking steps to prepare for the weather.
KYEM Director Jeremy Slinker talked about being weather-aware and the work to help those in Eastern Kentucky and warned about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia.
“In the event of a power outage, never use a generator indoors,” Director Slinker said. “Place the generator a safe distance from the home – at least 10 to 15 feet. Please use carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors. With these sub-zero temperatures, we also need people to dress in layers, as hypothermia is a real threat. And please take time to protect pets and livestock, which are also at threat.”
Weather preparedness information and tips are provided on the KYEM website.
KYTC Secretary Jim Gray said that a fleet of 1,365 state-owned and contracted plow trucks are available to be deployed across Kentucky. The cabinet has stockpiled over 300,000 tons of salt, nearly 1 million gallons of brine for anti-icing efforts and more than 1 million gallons of calcium chloride, an additive to salt for deicing.
“Our forces are prepped with stocked supplies and equipment to respond to winter weather threats and they will be on alert through the holiday weekend,” said Secretary Gray. “With high winds, downed trees are possible, so they’re prepared to help clear roads of debris. Safe roads take everyone’s cooperation, so I urge Kentuckians to stay weather alert by monitoring weather forecasts, checking traffic on a navigational app like WAZE or goky.ky.gov, altering travel plans to avoid driving when conditions are at their worst and giving yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.”
Visit snowky.ky.gov for snow and ice resources, like priority route maps, tips and highway district updates.
KSP has developed a list of items motorists should place in their vehicles before the weather sets in. This includes a winter weather kit with a cell phone charger, blankets, first-aid kit, jumper cables, windshield scraper, collapsible shovel and a flashlight with extra batteries.
“Kentuckians, wear your seat belts, slow down, leave more space between cars and prep your car with the necessary supplies in the event you become stranded,” said KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. “KSP and other emergency personnel are ready and available to respond during this upcoming winter storm, but we strongly encourage everyone to stay home when possible. If you must drive and experience a wreck or become stuck on the roadways, please be patient. Depending on the amount of winter weather the commonwealth receives and the number of roadway closures, emergency personnel may become very busy.”
In addition to the roadway reminders, KSP is asking citizens to refrain from dialing 911 to obtain road and weather conditions. KSP will use Facebook, Twitter and their website to share winter weather updates.
The Kentucky National Guard has begun pre-positioning assets to assist in rescues.
“Guardsmen will be activated ahead of the storm and stationed at several armories throughout the state,” Adjutant General of Kentucky Maj. Gen. Haldane Lamberton said. “The Joint Service Operations team in London will be on standby with an aircraft with hoists capabilities and the Special Tactics Squadron in Louisville will be on standby to provide emergency response capabilities.”