Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 4, 2014

Frigid temps in store for Tri-State

Region plunged into deep freeze

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — Baby, it’s cold outside.

And, according to weather forecasters, it’s likely to get even colder in the days ahead.

The Tri-State experienced its first serious winter weather of the season on Thursday, as a winter storm moving out of the region slammed the area with snow, ice and bone-chilling temperatures.

Arctic air remained in charge on Friday, with the mercury struggling to get out of the teens in many places. Friday night’s temperatures were expected to dip into the single digits and below zero in the mountain valleys, the coldest the area has experienced in quite some time, according to the National Weather Service’s Charleston forecast office.

Afternoon temperatures are expected to recover toward normal levels over the weekend, but an even more intense arctic outbreak will occur early next week, the NWS said. The cold front is expected to move in on Sunday afternoon. Rain will likely spread east to west across the mid-Ohio Valley and Central Appalachians on Sunday, then change to snow as temperatures plummet behind the cold front.

Bitter cold — lows of 5 to 10 below zero and wind chill values as low as 25 below — is expected early next week, the NWS said. Another storm system is expected Thursday or Friday.

The cold snap brought with it a reminder Friday from the Ohio Department of Transportation of the potential for closure of the Ironton-Russell Bridge.

In the event of projected sub-zero temperatures, ODOT officials from both Lawrence County and the district headquarters in Chillicothe will monitor temperatures at the bridge for possible stress. While the Ironton-Russell Bridge is safe for travel, the bridge’s steel truss structure is not wholly guarded against temperatures sustained below zero degrees. This, in part, is because of its age, construction, current condition and certain fatigue-prone details in which cold weather may have an adverse effect on the bridge’s steel members.

“Over the years, we have been working with the University of Cincinnati Infrastructure Institute to test and collect data from the bridge to monitor its structural integrity,” said ODOT District 9 Deputy Director Vaughn Wilson. “As a result of these tests, it has been determined that the steel may become brittle, and the bridge may be susceptible to further cracking should the bridge be subject to sub-zero temperatures.”

As the threat of extreme cold temperatures is possible next week, ODOT is prepared to take action. Throughout the next several days, as well as during the entire winter season, ODOT officials will be monitoring the weather for extreme cold and should the temperature approach the zero degree mark and continue falling, they will determine if the bridge should be closed to traffic.

In the event that the bridge is closed, motorists will be detoured via U.S. 52 and the Ashland twin bridges at Coal Grove.

State highway crews in Kentucky were expecting to wrap up winter snow and ice removal across the state’s northeast region this Friday afternoon and night, said Allen Blair, a spokesman for District 9 of the Kentucky Department of Highways.

 As of 4 p.m., most state routes were reported as clear with isolated slush in some areas, particularly low-volume Priority C routes. Interstate 64 and major routes were clear and drying. Pavement temperatures had increased to about 30 degrees.

 During winter weather, District 9 monitors work 12-hour shifts to keep roadways in the best possible condition, Blair said. Crews and contractors in District 9 have more than 75 snow plows and more than 20,000 tons of salt stockpiled to fight winter snow and ice.

The current weather conditions and those expected in the next few days are the kind that can cause pipes to freeze, and the Kentucky Division of Water offered some tips to help prevent that from happening.

Water inside pipes expands when it freezes and can cause pipes to rupture, allowing water to escape and cause serious damage.

The Division of Water says pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are vulnerable, especially if openings let in outside air.

To prevent freezing, wrap hot and cold water pipes in insulation or layers of newspaper and cover the newspaper with plastic to keep moisture out. Run a trickle of water from a cold faucet farthest from the water meter or one that has frozen before. Also, open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around pipes.

According to Brent Webster, director of the Boyd County Office of Emergency Management, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases during extreme cold weather.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the U.S., Webster said.  Such common items as automotive exhaust, home heating systems and obstructed chimneys can produce the colorless, odorless gas.

“Every home should have both a working smoke detector and a CO detector,” Webster said. “Carbon Monoxide is odorless and tasteless. CO and smoke are a real danger for us as we sleep in our homes at night. We would like to think that smoke and CO would wake us up before something bad would happen but that just is not the truth.”

The gas can also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other items used for cooking and heating when used improperly during the winter months.

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, never run generators indoors, use charcoal to cook indoors or use a gas oven to heat your home, Webster said.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.