For the first time in memory, officials at Highway District 12 had to pull back its trucks from ‘B’ and ‘C’ routes last night because ice-covered roads jeopardized driver safety. D12 officials advise everyone to stay indoors today, tonight, and well into the day tomorrow, Tuesday, February 16.

“Our trucks were running into guardrail, sliding into ditch lines, unable to stay on the pavement,” said Darold Slone, D12 snow and ice coordinator. “Our drivers are highly skilled and experienced driving in every type of weather. Every truck is fully loaded with salt and liquid calcium chloride. They have chains on their tires. If they can’t navigate the roads safely, then other people don’t need to be out.” Slone said this is the first time in more than 20 years that the District has pulled back and worked only ‘A’ routes.

Freezing rain all day Feb. 14 turned roads into sheets of ice, not just patchy places on bridges and in cold spots. Temperatures stayed just below freezing throughout the day, dropping lower overnight. Dillon Horn, a plow operator in Johnson County, reported that he was able to treat his routes only by driving in reverse, going backwards because the steering axle could not get traction in the forward gears.

The crews worked ‘A’ routes all night – the most heavily traveled roads and those critical for access to hospitals. Monday morning is no different so far. “The only thing that is better is we are working in daylight instead of the dark,” Slone said. “This helps, of course, but it doesn’t break up the ice. That won’t happen until temperatures rise above freezing.”

Only two of the District’s seven counties avoided the worst of this weather system: Lawrence County, the northernmost in the District, and Letcher County, the southernmost, on the Virginia state line, were not hit has hard as Johnson, Floyd, Martin, Knott and Pike counties. However, as of Monday morning, Lawrence County joined the five most impacted, with highways starting to ice over early in the day. If the current forecast holds, only Letcher County will escape the worst conditions brought by the freezing rain and low temperatures.

All seven counties saw freezing rain at daylight on Monday. This is expected to continue throughout the day and increase in intensity Monday evening and overnight into Tuesday morning. “Some warm air should push into the southeast counties today, and those areas will see a period of rain only,” Slone said, “but it won’t last long. The bulk of the precipitation will fall this evening and into the night. Conditions could mirror what was experienced last night, only worse and more widespread.”

Slone also said that this is primarily an ice event for District 12. Very little, if any, snow is expected. The system seems to taper off slightly in the southern counties, Letcher and parts of Knott and Pike.

The message is clear: stay inside until at least Tuesday mid-afternoon. Emergency responders, healthcare professionals, and others who must report to work do so at considerable risk. “If you live on an ‘A’ route and have a more or less straight shot, ‘A’ routes all the way, you still need to be extremely careful, leave early, adjust your driving to road conditions, and make sure someone knows where you are going,” Slone advised. “If you live in one of the very few places that do not have ice-covered roads, consider yourself blessed.”

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