LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rain and winds were moving into Kentucky ahead of extreme cold and snow as the state prepared Sunday for the strongest winter storm the state has seen in two decades, even though the initial forecast for snow has been scaled back.
While the worst of the weather wasn't expected until Sunday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Spaeth in Paducah said that once it arrives, 1 to 3 inches of snow and temperatures below zero were expected throughout the day and into Monday.
Joe Sullivan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Louisville, said those temperatures would be anywhere from 20 to 40 degrees below normal highs in the 40s and lows in the mid-20s.
Sullivan said a low pressure area was slowly moving north along the Mississippi River, but once it moved east of Louisville, the cold air would follow. Spaeth said the cold blast is expected to last through all of Monday, with wind chills in the range of 15 below zero to 20 below zero for parts of the state.
"Just find a warm spot and hang out there for the day," Spaeth said.
David Nickell of Smithland, Ky., in the western part of the state, is doing just that. Nickell, an instructor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, took extra hay into the field, moved his animals out of the wind, gassed up fuel cans and loaded up on batteries. An ice storm in 2009 that shut down large sections of Kentucky and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people is still a fresh memory, Nickell said.
"We are hoping this isn't going to be more than a few days of cold weather, but we did learn with the ice storm that you can wake up in the 19th century and you need to be able to not only survive, but be comfortable and continue with your basic day to day functions," Nickell said.
At Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah, Ky., United Airlines cancelled all flights in and out of the western Kentucky airport for Monday and Tuesday because of the freezing temperatures.
The initial forecast for Kentucky called for more than 4 inches of snow, but that has been scaled back. Spaeth said the snow will move through quickly, with cold air settling in behind it. While it was 52 degrees at noon in Louisville and temperatures pushing near 60 degrees in parts of southern Kentucky, the cold air was expected rush in quickly Sunday night, Sullivan said.
About 1 to 2 inches were expected for the Louisville area between 9 p.m. and midnight, with the snow field moving east quickly into the Lexington area and the Appalachians, Sullivan said.
"It's a fairly quick blast of snowfall," Sullivan said.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said the main concern is wet roads freezing quickly as the temperature plummets.
The coldest it has been in Paducah on Jan. 6 is 13 degrees. The coldest temperature recorded in the city on any day was 1 degree in 1985.
The last time subzero temperatures were recorded in Louisville was 2009.
Organizations including churches and the Salvation Army plan to open warming centers in some cities. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray called on residents to check on neighbors, the elderly, and bring pets inside. Lexington is opening warming stations and 24-hour emergency shelters.
The cities of Henderson and Owensboro could experience temperatures of 5 degrees below zero with wind chills as cold as 20 below by Monday morning.
"Apparently, not just barely below freezing, but quite a ways," Spaeth said.
Once the arctic air moves in, it will stay for a day before warming up slightly heading in to Tuesday, when daytime temperatures will rise into the teens, Spaeth said.
"It'll be a better form of unpleasant (Tuesday)," Spaeth said. "If we hadn't had Monday before it, we'd think it was pretty darn unpleasant."
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