A winter storm packing an icy punch left area roadways treacherous for much of Friday, leading to a number of accidents that kept emergency responders busy.
“The major roads are clearing up, but we certainly have a number of secondary roadways that are still hazardous, especially in the more rural areas,” said Pulaski County Sheriff Todd Wood at around 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Many in the county had gone to bed Thursday night expecting some type of wintry precipitation – but it wasn’t known for sure what would come down in the early morning hours Friday. Forecasts had called for some snow and some ice, with the caveat that less snow would mean more ice and vice versa.
What Pulaski residents woke up to was virtually no snow – and freezing drizzle that began before 6 a.m. Friday.
Luckily, the Pulaski County school system had called off classes for Friday, and the other school systems were quick to do the same. A number of area businesses closed early or didn’t open at all, thanks to the wintry weather.
“Dealing with ice is much different than dealing with snow,” said Wood.
Snow, while a nuisance, can usually be traversed with caution. Ice, on the other hand, can be nearly impossible to control a vehicle on. Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Jackson reported that as of 5 p.m. Friday, southern Pulaski County had seen about a fourth of an inch (.25 of an inch) of ice accumulation. Residents north of that saw around a fifth of an inch (.20 of an inch).
The area’s bitterly cold temperatures meant a tougher job for county and state road workers who canvassed the county Friday to apply salt mixture.
The colder the road surface, the more difficult it is to melt ice and snow. Motorists were warned by authorities going into Friday evening that the melted ice would no doubt freeze again as the temperatures dropped again overnight.
“We are still urging people to use extreme caution,” said Wood.
Emergency responders asked earlier Friday that drivers not take to the roadways unless absolutely necessary — and that request was still in effect going into Friday evening.
“It is really slick out there,” said Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson. “It’s best to just stay in for awhile.”
Parkers Mill Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Keith Price echoed those thoughts.
“It’s like looking at your reflection,” Price said late Friday morning, about the icy conditions of the roads. “Wrecks (are) everywhere. People need to stay home … so far nothing serious. Mainly (drivers are) just sliding off the road.”
Friday’s icy accumulation was enough to cause some spotty power outages.
South Kentucky RECC reported through its Facebook page that people were without power at times on Cox Lane in Tateville, Cabin Hollow Road outside the Ferguson area, and Ky. 1003, Denton Phelps Road and Pea Ridge, located off of East Ky. 80 in far eastern Pulaski County. Those outages affected more than 100 people.
The freezing rain continued on and off throughout much of Friday morning, finally tapering off after 12 p.m. What remained were icy roads that left many struggling to control their vehicles. Pulaski County 911 reported 71 accidents — one with injuries — as a result of the ice. That number includes accidents in the city and county.
Lt. Shannon Smith, with the Somerset Police Department, said SPD officers responded to 35 of the 71 accidents. Several of those involved multiple vehicles at one location — including one incident on Ringgold Road that involved an SPD cruiser.
“That’s not a big thing,” Smith said. “He slid just a few feet off the road and we were able to get him out pretty quick.
“I can’t tell you the last time one of our guys was in a wreck during the course of their day, which is a good thing,” Smith continued.
Wood said his deputies also stayed safe, even as they responded to a multitude of accidents on hazardous roads. He said one deputy’s cruiser did slide off the roadway, but he said he was uninjured and the damage to the car was minimal.
There’s a good chance those accidents reported to emergency personnel were only a part of the total number of incidents that took place. Many people may have chosen to call for help from family and friends.
Wood said the volume of reported accidents in the county was so high that some motorists may not have spoken to a deputy. He said drivers can go to his office, located in the old courthouse, to fill out an incident form to submit to their insurance companies as long as only one car was involved and no injuries were reported.
“We encourage those people to stop by the sheriff’s office anytime,” Wood said.
The ice may have slowed down some emergency responders, which included local fire departments and Somerset-Pulaski County EMS, along with the police, but they stayed out in full force throughout Friday, responding to reports of injuries resulting from falls on the ice along with the vehicle accidents.
“They (SPD officers) are still out there,” said Smith. “They’ll be out there in the coldest temperatures, deepest snows, and sunny skies. It doesn’t matter.
“When it hits again, we’ll be back out there,” Smith added.