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Jonas storms County

Winter Storm Jonas brought his icy touch to McCreary County this past weekend, blanketing the area with upwards of 12 inches of snow and ice – bringing the county to a standstill for nearly three days.

With downed trees hitting power lines causing outages; heavy accumulation of snow on the roads making travel difficult and dangerous, and the cold temperatures keeping people indoors, it was an event that impacted everyone to some degree.

Perhaps giving us a glimpse of what was to come, the county received up to three inches of snow from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, prompting the cancellation of school.

But the real impact of the weather system was felt Friday and Saturday as the slow moving system lingered over the area before moving on to the northeast.

Heavy snow mixed with periods of freezing rain started to cover the roads early Friday morning, as well as ice accumulating in tress and on power lines. Snow fell for over 24 hours, making travel extremely difficult and dangerous.

Citizens were asked to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary, as State and local road crews worked to attempt to keep roads clear as much as possible.

Through it all, many selfless individuals braved the cold and low visibility to help others in need.

McCreary County’s emergency responders and utility crews deserve a big pat on the back according to McCreary County EMS/911 Director Jimmy Barnett.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of all the County workers and emergency responders for what they did this past weekend,” he said Monday. “EMS and 911 personnel, along with the fire departments, Rescue Squad, the Water District, RECC and others went above and beyond in making sure help was available when it was needed.

At the EMS/911 Center, the communications hub for the County during the storm, things went smoothly – except for one incident that was quickly resolved.

Barnett stated an electrical issue with the generator during a power outage Friday night caused a malfunction in the system, knocking out some computers and radio equipment for a few minutes.

The built-in back-up actions immediately took effect, with calls automatically re-routed to Wayne County. When that overwhelmed their system, calls were routed to Pulaski and Whitley County.

Within 15 minutes the majority of the system was back on line at 911, and radio issues were resolved with fire departments loaning radios to use until repairs could be made.

At no time did a call go unanswered, Barnett stated.

“It worked like it was supposed to,” he said.

Up to a dozen EMS and 911 personnel stayed at the EMS Center for the duration of the storm, providing assistance where needed, such as answering 911 calls and responding to emergency calls.

The Ambulance service operated on Emergency Plan A for most of the weekend, meaning patients’ hospital choices were limited (primarily to Pioneer in Scott County) due to road conditions. They also asked citizens to call in for emergency situations only for safety reasons.

“They adhered to the message and only called when necessary,” Barnett said. “That helped everyone. With travel times to and from patients’ residences increased due to the road conditions, it prevented crews being stuck on a non-emergency call and not being available when a true emergency came up.”

The Ambulance Service was also helped by other departments when it came to reaching patients on the snow covered roads.

Members of the McCreary County Sheriff’s Department, who were on patrol during the entire weekend, the McCreary County Rescue Squad and all five County Volunteer Fire Departments, as well as representatives from RECC, the McCreary County Water District and McCreary County Road Department helped during the storm.

The Ambulance Service was lent the use of a plow from the Road Department to help clear paths for ambulances, the Rescue Squad helped perform wellness checks on residents, delivering food and medication to families stuck in their houses and deliver patients to needed medical appointments.

Crews from the fire departments helped clear trees that had fallen into the roads from the ice and rescue stranded motorists.

Power issues were a concern in the county as ice-laden tree limbs contacted power lines, causing disruption.

Friday evening a transmission failure in the system knocked out power to most of McCreary County for over an hour before that problem could be corrected.

By Tuesday the majority of SKRECC’s customers had power restored, with only a few outages still awaiting service.

Some residents went the entire weekend without power, with over 300 customers still without electricity as of Sunday night.

South Kentucky RECC reports about 15,000 customers throughout their service area were without power at the peak.

Road conditions are always a concern during winter snow events, and McCreary County Road Department Supervisor Roger Moore is well aware of the criticisms directed at the local and state road crews during these times.

But, with over 400 miles of county roads to cover, with limited resources, Moore said his crew has been working every available hour to get the roads clear.

“I wish we could help everybody, but we are limited to what we can do, and how fast we can do it,” he said.

McCreary County Road crews had seven trucks operating, scraping and salting roads throughout the snow event, with focus on black topped roads and known areas where individuals with home health care requirements were located.

State crews were running trucks as well, working crews to try and keep the main roadways clear as much as possible.

Moore said the local crews began preparations for the snow last Tuesday, pre-treating roads and hills, and once the snow started falling began scraping and plowing where possible.

As of Wednesday crews were still clearing roads, but it is time consuming, and some areas are still waiting for work to be done.

“We have been using every thing we have to get the roads passable,” Moore said. “I have a list that won’t slow down.”

One problem is downed trees and overhanging limbs, making passage of the larger equipment difficult on some roads. Tuesday Moore and his crew spent the day clearing trees and removing debris.

“If we built a bonfire of all the brush we removed, it would melt the rest of this snow off,” he said.

Many of the county roads are chip and seal, making them extremely difficult to keep clear from snow.

Moore explained that a plow is not capable of scraping the road, lest it get damaged. And salting is out of the question as well, as the salt breaks down the chemical bond and would ruin the surface.

What can be done is to spread gravel to increase traction, but the Road Department has a limited supply of the material and only one vehicle capable of properly dropping the number 8 rock. That truck has been busy dropping the rock on the hillsides and slopes of those roads to help citizens.

“We can’t gravel the flats, that is just not possible with the amount of rock we have and the one truck,” Moore said.

Moore expressed thanks to the fire departments and local citizens who helped by taking initiative to cut limbs or use their own equipment to clear portions of roads.

“I can’t thank them enough for what they have done,” he said.

More snow is possible later this week, it is not expected to drop a significant amount.

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