As cold blast moves in, Ky. seeks to stay warm


Associated Press

Posted on January 7, 2014 at 3:03 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 7 at 3:03 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Wind chills plunged well below zero across Kentucky on Monday as a blast of arctic air forced schools to close and kept many people from venturing outside into the biting cold.

Temperatures dropped into the low single digits, and wind chills plummeted to 22 below zero at Louisville, 20 below in Lexington, 15 below in Jackson in eastern Kentucky and 14 below in Paducah in the west.

Wind chills were expected to remain stuck well below zero across the state into Tuesday, and the bitter cold snap had officials warning people to stay inside.

"With wind chills at this level, frostbite can set in at a little more than a half hour," said Mike Callahan with the National Weather Service in Louisville.

In southeastern Kentucky, black ice was cited as a factor in a two-vehicle crash that left one person dead, according to Laurel County Sheriff John Root. A car headed south on Interstate 75 near London, Ky., lost control on the patch of black ice and spun out of control into the path of a tractor-trailer, Root said.

The frigid temperatures pushed people into shelters overnight and into any warm spots available during the day.

In Lexington, an emergency shelter for men was so crowded that it had to send more than a dozen people to another shelter at a church.

About 240 men took refuge overnight at the Hope Center shelter, a near record, said Kenneth Newton, a director.

"We're extremely packed," Newton said. "We're trying to make it as comfortable for everyone as best we can."

Kentuckians who ventured out endured difficulties caused by the cold.

John Tyler, a self-described homeless man, gathered with friends at a McDonald's in downtown Louisville after spending Sunday night sleeping on the street.

Tyler, dressed in a sweatshirt, two coats and a black woolen cap, said there's no way to adequately prepare for the cold when the temperature drops to 0 degrees or the wind chill gets even colder.

"How we're dealing with it? You can't deal with it," Tyler said. "There's no way you can deal with it."

In Shelbyville, Billy Lewis drove his wife to work, but just getting there was a challenge because their sport-utility vehicle was parked in their driveway overnight.

"The doors were frozen, and we had a flat tire this morning," Lewis said while stopping at a convenience store.

As soon as he dropped off his wife, he said, he was going home to get warm.

In Louisville, a few braved the cold to walk their dogs or head for a bus stop, but the streets didn't show the normal signs of heavy Monday morning traffic.

State road crews were mobilized Sunday to treat roads ahead of the wintry blast as temperatures plunged by nearly 50 degrees in some areas. Crews were continuing to spot treat roads for snow and ice Monday.

The Transportation Cabinet warned that salt would be less effective on roads with such low temperatures and said drivers should be mindful of possible ice and use caution.

Schools were closed across the state as many students got a one- or two-day extension to their winter vacations.

Wind chills were expected to range from about 10 below to 25 below across the state into Tuesday.

"The arctic cold is just going to settle in," Callahan said.

Light snow fell across much of the state, and officials warned of possible slick spots on roads.

Pam Spencer, a spokeswoman for Paducah city offices, said the streets were salted in preparation for a heavy snow storm that never came. Now, Spencer said, it is just a matter of functioning as well as possible.

"Yes, we're just basically trying to stay warm," Spencer said.

The bitter cold also forced farmers to take extra precautions for their livestock.

The arctic air was expected to stay for a day before warming up slightly heading into Tuesday, when daytime temperatures will rise into the teens, forecasters said.

"It'll be a better form of unpleasant (Tuesday)," said weather service meteorologist Dan Spaeth in Paducah. "If we hadn't had Monday before it, we'd think it was pretty darn unpleasant."


Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Ky.