Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 30, 2012

October snow not unknown but unusual

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — People driving to work Tuesday under a sky spitting wet snow may have wondered if they were seeing something out of the ordinary.

Snow occasionally falls in October in northeast Kentucky, but what is unusual is the volume, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Liz Sommerville.

The snow accumulated in some higher-elevation areas to picture postcard proportions but melted later in the day.

Hurricane Sandy, the storm that stomped its way up the East Coast of the United States early this week, is to blame, said Sommerville, speaking from the weather service’s Charleston, W.Va., headquarters.

A low-pressure system came through the region at the same time Sandy was moving up the coast; when they met the front slowed down and the lingering rainclouds dumped rain over the Tri-State, Sommerville said.

As the hurricane moved through, the low-pressure system pulled it inland, bringing its moisture with it and combining with the cold air to produce snow.

With Sandy continuing its northward march, the wet cold conditions that bring snow should pass as well, and the forecast showed the worst being over by this morning.

State highway workers who were called out to clear roads of slush and snow Tuesday should be able to stand down today, said Kentucky Department of Highways spokesman Allen Blair. Roads that were slushy in from Boyd County as far southwest as Rowan County were unlikely to be called out, he said.

Weather service records show snow has fallen in Ashland as early as Oct. 24 and in Greenup by Oct. 25, but Blair said workers in Northeast Kentucky highway garages couldn’t remember plowing that early. “This is one of the first times people remember being out in October,” he said.

Northeast Kentucky schools were mostly spared, although Lawrence County schools delayed opening for two hours Tuesday. Fallsburg Elementary lost power around 9 a.m. and children were bused home, Superintendent Mike Armstrong said.

The wet snow blanketed trees in some parts of the county “like a picture postcard,” he said. Armstrong was not anticipating closure or delay today.

Initial reports that the highway surface of the Ironton-Russell bridge had dropped up to six inches turned out to be false, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokeswoman said.

Inspectors combed over the bridge Tuesday morning and found no evidence of dropping, spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller said.

Police had closed the bridge Monday night after receiving reports of the dropping, but reopened it about an hour later when they found no signs of damage.

Inspectors Tuesday found an elevation difference of about half an inch between sets of finger joints, which allow for expansion between bridge deck sections. That amount of difference is well within safety limits and not considered significant, Fuller said. “The bridge did not drop or shift,” she said.

The bridge is monitored day and night with electronic sensors that would alert engineers immediately if there were any problems, she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.