The National Weather Service of Paducah during a briefing today said initial projections indicate an upcoming winter storm could produce the biggest icing event in the last two or three years. The major concerns: accumulating ice and brutal cold.
NWS Science and Operations Officer Pat Spoden said the forecast of liquid precipitation begins this evening and should end Thursday evening. He said during that 48-hour period, western Kentucky will likely see a quarter inch to a half inch of ice. As of this time, he said predictions land around a 70-80% chance for at least a quarter inch of ice accumulation during that time frame.
Spoden also noted the last time an ice storm of this measure landed in the coverage region, according to information from the St. Louis University, was in 1991 and it “wasn’t a major ice storm.” He said the setup of the storm is similar to the ice storm of 2009, “but we should not see near the amounts that we saw in 2009.”
Spoden said the weekend will also likely result in broken cold temperature records, with Sunday morning lows in Cape Girardeau near zero and six degrees near Paducah.
NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Rick Shanklin said each model meteorologists review looks a little different than the last, but at this point they feel as if they have a pretty clear picture of what to expect. He said in summary, they’re predicting a potentially major ice storm for parts of the region including the southern part of the Missouri Bootheel and the southern half of western Kentucky.
Several school districts were on the call, asking for specific time frames citing concerns about students traveling to sporting events this evening. Shanklin said the system should arrive in western Kentucky around 6 p.m. CST, and said Calloway County will likely see freezing rain begin around 8 p.m.
Shanklin said the Hopkinsville, Christian County area is expected to catch the brunt of the storm with current projections at .22 inch in a short period of time, which could be “very concerning.” But the impacts are expected to be moderate, he said, with the largest concern about people breaking limbs trying to walk on the ice.
The risk for power outage increases as the amount of ice accumulation increases, Shanklin said, but probably the most risk for the power lines is frozen tree limbs knocked down with wind. He said the wind projection for the next few days is 10 MPH with wind gusts in the teens, which could be enough to shake around frozen limbs and power lines.
Shanklin said the precipitation will move out of the region Thursday and sunshine will return Friday. But because the temperatures will still be so low, he explained, the effects of the ice storm could linger longer than normal. He said it’s likely Friday’s sunshine with help alleviate accumulation on pretreated roads where the sun is shining directly on the pavement, but won’t be enough to help with affectedtrees and other accumulation.