LEXINGTON, Ky. – Snow is coming … maybe this week … but ultimately it’s not a question of “if,” but “when.” And, of course, “how much?”
While there are still a lot of questions, whenever the flakes start falling, Lexington is prepared.
“We’ve got a snow plan, a barn full of salt, and crews and trucks ready to go,” Mayor Jim Gray said.
The city responds to an average of 22 snow events between November and April.
“The past three years have been unusual,” says Rob Allen, the deputy director of Streets and Roads. “Three years ago we had a polar vortex and sub-freezing temps. Two years ago we had two 12” snows followed by a 4” snow three days later. While the volume of snow was great, the number of events, 11, was small. Last year, we had a mild winter – only six responses and two real snows.”
Lexington is responsible for plowing more than 1,400 lane miles in Fayette County. This includes streets and roads that were added to the city’s snow plan over the past couple of years. Two years ago, during those 12” snows, the city paid contractors more than $850,000 to assist city crews in plowing snow. Last year, the city had a contractor dedicated to plowing certain major roads in Lexington with a guaranteed payment of $178,000 to cover fit-up expenses. The contractor’s crews were deployed twice, costing an additional $5,000 on top of the fit-up expense. Because no streets or roads have been removed from the snow plan, it will take longer for city crews to plow the same number of streets without contractor support.
The city expects to have 40 trucks dedicated to snow plowing. Drivers will work 12-hour shifts. Salt boxes and salt spreaders have already been added to the trucks. Plow blades will be added right before the first snow.
Lexington uses 7,000-12,000 tons of salt during a typical winter. The city has 6,000 tons of salt on hand and has authorized the purchase of another 3,000 tons with a guaranteed price for more, if needed. The city also uses salt brine to treat roadways. “We are able to start treating the roads up to three days before a weather event as long as it doesn’t look like it will start with rain,” Allen said.
“As always, we ask that drivers use caution when driving in winter weather and have some patience as we do our best to clear snow from roadways as quickly as possible,” says Dowell Hoskins-Squier, Environmental Quality & Public Works’ commissioner.
The city has updated its Snow and Ice Plan. “After careful examination of both the needs of our citizens and the resources available, the city has developed a plan of snow and ice removal operations,” says Chester Hicks, an administrative officer in the Division of Environmental Quality and Public Works. “This plan serves as a guide for our snow removal crews, administration officials and the general public on how we will conduct operations during hazardous winter weather.” The plan is available on the city’s website at lexingtonky.gov/snow.
Lexington Emergency Management will monitor the National Weather Service. Should the forecast call for a Level 2 snowfall over a 24 hour period (5-7 inches of snow) the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will partially activate. Should the forecast or actual snowfall reach Level 3 designation (8 inches or greater), Emergency Management will fully activate the Emergency Operations Center to coordinate local and regional response activities. The EOC will remain activated 24 hours a day until the snow conditions have passed and travel/conditions return to normal.
If the National Weather Service forecast calls for freezing rain or ice buildup in excess of one-quarter inch, the EOC will partially activate. Should the forecast or actual conditions indicate a buildup in excess of one-half inch, the EOC will fully activate in support of other local, regional and state response assets and agencies. Ice accumulations of one-half inch or greater usually cause moderate to severe power outages, as well as serious hazard to transportation. The EOC will assist in coordinating response efforts as well as coordinating shelters and alternative transportation efforts.
Once snow arrives, you can get information on accidents, lane blockages, snow-and-ice trouble spots and road closures through the city’s Twitter accounts (@lexwrecks and @lexkypolice). Citizens can also view traffic and major intersections in real time through the city’s traffic cameras at lexingtonky.gov/traffic. And we encourage individuals to participate in social media discussions by using #LexKySnow on Twitter and Facebook.