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Road crews battle first winter storm

Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. — Austin Ramsey Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

Jan. 13--Although accumulations were expected to closely align with forecast predictions by late evening, it was what accumulated across most of western Kentucky and southern Indiana on Friday that caught most weather experts off guard.

Sleet.

And lots of it.

Rick Shanklin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, said lingering warm air pockets kept moisture in much of the precipitation that fell before noon Friday. That left a solid bed of ice that road crews and morning commuters were left to battle through much of the morning.

It was the unfortunate nature of the region's first major winter storm in a little more than two years. Heavy rainfall preceded the early morning's wintry mix and later snow for most of the day Friday, but staggered temperatures left behind up to 2 or 3 inches of sleet in its wake. That left a blanket of ice for the snow to stick, and it made pretreating, treating and even plowing roads extremely difficult.

But road crews came out swinging in early.

"We're giving this thing everything we've got," said Daviess County Engineer and Public Works Director Mark Brasher. "We had a skeleton crew out there at 4 a.m. in the morning, and we were fully staffed by noon."

Warmer temperatures earlier in the week left the roadbed just above the freezing point on many rural county roads, making it easier to scrape up some of the ice, Brasher said. But, according to city street manager Kevin DeRossitt, in places where heavy traffic compacted the bed of sleet, it was more difficult for plows to scrape it up.

Still, crews in the city started early Friday and worked most of the day and night.

By the early afternoon, however, whatever progress had been made on the sleet was being reversed by the snow.

"It's an ongoing process," DeRossitt said. "Slow and steady."

No plow accidents were reported in the city nor county Friday.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the mid to low 20s throughout the weekend, heading into the workweek, when another winter clipper could dump up to another inch of snow in the Owensboro area. No significant thawing is expected until at least Friday.

Austin Ramsey, 270-691-7302, aramsey@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @austinrramsey

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