The Tri-State’s latest blast of winter weather closed most schools Friday, but caused relatively few traffic accidents in the Ashland area despite slippery road conditions.
Only the Russell and Raceland-Worthington independent school districts remained in session throughout the day, while Holy Family School and Ashland Community and Technical College suspended classes midway through the day.
John McGlone, a spokesman for ACTC, explained the school wanted to make sure its students could get home before roads deteriorated further, as forecasters were calling for continued snowy and icy conditions from mid-morning through mid-evening.
“The timing of this is what caused the most headaches,” said Tim Axford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston. He said school administrators had a tough call deciding whether to be safe and call off school before the storms arrived or after conditions began to deteriorate.
“We’re not in on those decisions; we just give them the weather,” he said. “It’s a tough call.”
The system dumped about 2 inches of snow on the Ashland area, but some areas also saw sleet and freezing rain. The entire region was placed under a winter weather advisory for most of Friday, indicating conditions could run the gamut of frozen precipitation.
“What’s happened with this system is it’s two systems that have come together over our area — a system to the north that swung down into the Midwest, and another that came through the southern Plains — merging on our area. Neither is strong, but it’s just a large spacial coverage of snow and farther south a wintery mix,” Axford said.
“We’re seeing weather ranging from ice, freezing rain, to sleet, little snow grains and snow,” he said. “It’s creating slippery conditions without putting down 4, 5 or 6 inches of snow. This 1 or 2 inches can create some hazards.”
Dispatchers at Kentucky State Police Post 14 and the Regional Public Safety Communication Center reported few accidents throughout Friday afternoon.
Axford said predicting precipitation amounts and timing of storms is always difficult in the hilly, mountainous terrain of West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio. Warm air tends to get “squeezed in” west of the mountains and can stay warmer, while micro climates and other factors can cause conditions to be different from place to place.
“Those little local effects are things we take into account all the time,” he said.
Despite Friday’s snowfall, the region remains below average for winter snowfall amounts. On average, the area receives about 24 inches of snow between October and April.
This year, the region has gotten only about a quarter of that amount in three weather events. Huntington reported 2 inches of snow on Oct. 30 because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy. And another 1.6 inches fell Dec. 28 and 29.
On average, October snow measures 1⁄10 of an inch, November sees 7⁄10 of an inch, December has 3.8 inches, January measures 6.9 inches, February reports 7.4 inches and March sees 3.8 inches, Axford said.
Friday was January’s first measured snowfall in the region.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2653.