Campus closed for second day as ice storm batters region


A snow-clearing machine works its way down the sidewalk outside of William T. Young library on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Natalie Parks

Afternoon update

As of 7 p.m., the University of Kentucky planned to resume normal operations for in-person classes, the Kroger Field vaccine clinic and COVID-19 testing sites on Friday, Feb. 12.

“If weather conditions change, prompting the need to modify schedules, we will communicate with the campus and general public,” read a release from the university.

Students said the days without in-person classes freed up their time and that they had little trouble with slick roads or power outages as a result of the ice storm.

“I did have internet connection issues, my internet in my dorm wasn’t great yesterday and today,” said freshman Eesh Kulshrestha, an engineering major. He thought the weather was improving from Wednesday.

“Yesterday I did slip a little bit going up those stairs over there but today has been a little clearer,” Kulresthra said.

He stepped out to grab lunch from the 90 after his online classes. So did Chellam Antony, a freshman and psychology major.

“It’s really pretty and it’s nice, staying inside for a while instead of walking all across campus,” Antony said. She did not experience the same connectivity issues.

“Our dorm had power all night,” Antony said. “I was really concerned about the Wi Fi cutting out especially because all of our classes are online but luckily nothing’s gone down yet.”

She said she was nervous about the ice on campus.

“I’m kind of scared that I’m going to slip on ice but I think they’ve done a good job of clearing like the major sidewalks,” Antony said.

UK grounds crews were re-salting roads in the early afternoon. One grounds worker said he thinks he may have put out 700 pounds of salt so far that day, with each bag weighing 50 pounds.

“I thought the sidewalks were good,” said sophomore Jackie Tierney.” I could have gone to work today if I wanted to.”

Instead, Tierney and friend Morgan Gleghorn took advantage of canceled classes to have a photoshoot in the wintry landscape.

“I have a nice camera so I wanted to take pictures and she wanted cute pictures for Instagram, so,” Gleghorn said. She’s from Pennsylvania, so she said she was used to this kind of inclement weather.

“I don’t think I remember it being this icy since I was like eight,” said Tierney, a northern Kentucky native.

The pair prepared for the ice storm by saving a pitcher of water in case utilities went out but weren’t overly concerned about the possibility.

“I’m sure there are generators,” Gleghorn said.

Antony prepped by stocking up on supplies.

“Yesterday I went out to go to Walmart just to like get some extra snacks and like get some extra socks and everything just to make sure we stay warm,” Antony said. “In case something does happen at the dining halls, I wanted to be stocked up with food just ready to go.”

UK grounds workers driving snow machines continued clearing campus streets throughout the afternoon.

By Thursday afternoon, Lexington officials anticipated that the worst of the ice storm had passed – though meteorologists predict two more winter weather fronts to move through the city in the next week.

Mayor Linda Gorton said Lexington had not seen as severe damage because of preparation for the storm. She held a media update at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday where she said that at the time there were 1,923 Kentucky Utilities and 64 Bluegrass Energy customers without power in the city.

Rob Allen, director of the division of streets and roads, thanked Lexingtonians for staying off the roads so crews could work.

“Just a reminder it’s slow going when the temperature is below – freezing salt does work it just takes longer. Be patient and give the crews a chance to work,” Allen said. “Certainly if you have issues or need anything, call 311.”

He said crews would work around the clock until Friday at 4 p.m. when the city would reevaluate.

Police chief Lawrence Weathers said the city had seen only nine non-injury collisions since 9 a.m. Thursday morning.

“We didn’t have very much of a traffic impact because people did stay home and we really do appreciate that,” Weathers said. “Conditions were very slick.”

Lexington’s fire department responded to 236 incidents Wednesday night and into Thursday. According to chief Jason Wells, a number were “directly weather-related incidents, including transformer fires wires down, injury collisions, trees into structures and vehicles and one related fire.”

Allen warned that Lexington had passed its warmest time of day and that as temperatures dropped into the night roads would remain slick.

“We would like to remind the citizens to use extreme caution when utilizing supplemental heating via space heaters. Also be aware of carbon monoxide dangers. Watch for downed power lines, be mindful of slip road conditions, check on your neighbors,” Wells said.

Chief Lawrence Weathers said the police would have extra units patrolling into the weekend as another expected front moves through.

WKYT’s chief meteorologist Chris Bailey is projecting a second winter storm moving in over the weekend with “waves of snow, sleet and freezing rain through Monday and Tuesday.” 

Following that, Bailey said another front may move in next Wednesday that could “effectively shut down” parts of the Ohio River Valley.

Gorton said that the city has a stockpile of salt in both its barns to use over the next week.

“We had over 6,000 pounds of salt on hand and in a typical year we only use 12,000 pounds so we feel really good about that part,” Allen said.

“If we have to buy more, we’ll buy more,” Gorton added.

9:30 a.m. – Downed trees, power outages, slick roads: as Wednesday’s freezing rain bled into Thursday morning, the effects of a region-wide ice storm became apparent in Lexington.

Lexington got about two-tenths of an inch of ice, according to the National Weather Service and local meteorologists. Some places got a dusting of snow on top.

As of 9:00 a.m. on Feb. 11, Kentucky Utilities – the largest electricity provider in the state – reported more than 10,000 customers without power across the state.

Kentucky’s traffic management center reported cases of downed trees and downed power lines. Dozens of outages were reported across Lexington and in the streets neighboring UK. 

The university canceled in-person classes for the second day in a row on Thursday. Online classes will continue at the discretion of the professor.

UK’s vaccine clinic is also closed, along with COVID-19 testing sites at Kroger Field and student sites on campus.

Vaccine appointments on Thursday will be rescheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18.

All city offices not related to weather management were closed for Thursday, according to Lexington officials.

Crews responded to “numerous calls of icy limbs and power lines that have fallen on vehicles and roadways,”, according to a media release from city government.

Government leaders urge people to stay off the roads and avoid all non-essential travel.

WKYT meteorologist Chris Bailey predicts that the ice storm will shift to affect primarily south and southeastern Kentucky today and tomorrow, but warns that another storm front is moving in over the weekend that may bring a “wintry mix” to central Kentucky.

The ice storm warning label has been removed from Lexington due to declining precipitation rates. That does not mean road condition are safe, but that continued accumulation is less likely.

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency due to the icy conditions.

That provides additional funding for Kentucky’s emergency operations center, which is activated at Level Three.

Beshear said more than 70,000 Kentuckians have been affected by power outages. He urged everyone to stay off “treacherous” roads and to prepare emergency kits for power outages.

According to Michael Dosset of Kentucky emergency management, Lexington is in the zone most at risk for a mix of snow and sleet.

Transportation secretary Jim Gray said to keep in mind this is a “prolonged” event that may extend through the weekend.

“All through the night and continuing this morning we’ve had numerous reports of blocked roadways,” due to downed power lines, trees or stranded vehicles, Gray said.

The west-bound lanes on I-24 were still closed at the time of the governor’s update. Gray reminded drivers that, if they come to an intersection where traffic lights are not working due to a power outage, they should treat it like a four-way stop.

Kentuckians can find information on snow and ice conditions at