Environment

With severe winter weather and ice accumulation expected in Kentucky on Thursday and Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear has declared a state of emergency.

Beshear signed an executive order to help prevent price gouging of supplies and ordering state offices to be closed on Thursday.

The storm is expected to bring snow, sleet, heavy rain and between a quarter and three-quarters of an inch of ice to much of the state. State emergency officials said the ice could lead to downed power lines and trees and widespread power outages.

Beshear said driving conditions will be very dangerous. 

“We are looking at an ice storm that may make travel difficult to impossible at some times in various regions of our state. The amount of potential ice accumulation could potentially result in the loss of power for a large number of Kentuckians,” Beshear said.

Beshear said the National Weather Service has already declared an ice storm warning for the Jackson Purchase and Pennyrile regions in western Kentucky, and most of the state north of the Cumberland Parkway. 

A flood watch is in effect Thursday for southern parts of the state, with between 2.5 and 3.5 inches of rain expected. 

The ice is expected to be followed by one to two inches of snow in the northern and northwestern part of Kentucky. Beshear said ice accumulation could be “debilitating” for the state.

“If everything holds to where it is now, this is the real deal, it is dangerous, people need to be prepared,” Beshear said.

Beshear said emergency responders, including Kentucky State Police and the Kentucky National Guard will be stationed along major roadways, but people shouldn’t drive if they don’t have to because wet roads can quickly transition into ice.

If people need to drive, they should plan ahead by taking blankets, water and food in case they’re stranded for long periods of time, Beshear said.

He encouraged businesses to allow employees to work from home. State officials schools that hold classes should take a look at timing of the storm and consider how it could affect drop off and pick up times. 

The governor said many counties are already making plans to set up emergency warming stations for those who lose power. 

Louisville braces for freezing rain, snow

Louisville will be under a National Weather Service ice storm warning starting Thursday at 7 a.m. until Friday at the same time.

With dropping temperatures, the rain on Wednesday is expected to become freezing rain and later sleet and snow. 

Ice accumulation is expected to be between one-quarter to one-third of an inch in most areas, with some areas predicted to see up to one-half an inch of ice.

“When you get up to a quarter, a third of an inch of ice you can expect downed tree limbs, power outages,” NWS meteorologist Brian Schoettmer said. “Another thing we’re a little bit worried about is how windy it will be; the wind combined with the weight and the load on trees will usually result in more power outages.” 

LG&E said they are preparing to response to the possible mass outage that could come with the ice storm.

“We are in contact with our business partners in the form of line technicians and vegetation workers and we have put them on notice,” Natasha Collins, a spokesperson with the utility provider said. “We are also in contact with our mutual assistance partners in multiple regions.”

Schoettmer, with the NWS, said that people should make plans for keeping cold food from spoiling if the power goes out. 

He also voiced concerns about people losing access to heat, as temperatures are projected to be below 10 degrees Friday and Saturday. Schoettmer said people should have plans to use generators or find other ways to keep warm. Generators should always be used outside with proper ventilation. 

Road conditions will worsen into Thursday night when additional sleet and snow is expected to top the ice predicted earlier in the day. 

“If you don’t have to travel, especially Thursday into Thursday night, then we recommend not traveling,” Schoettmer said. 

While the precipitation is expected to stop by Friday morning, the cold temperature is projected to last well into the weekend.

“It’s really not until Sunday afternoon that we get well above freezing,” Schoettmer said. “I would imagine by Sunday afternoon, evening [the ice] will all be gone.

COVID testing closures

Some Louisville and Southern Indiana COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites have already been canceled ahead of the ice storm predicted to hit the region.

The University of Louisville Health testing and vaccine site at Brook and Liberty streets will close at noon Thursday and reopen at 10 a.m. Friday. 

UofL Hospital staff are reaching out to those with appointments to try to get them rescheduled.

The Floyd County Health Department testing site at the 4-H Fairgrounds in New Albany will be closed Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Vaccinations at IU Southeast in New Albany have been canceled for Thursday and Friday. 

Walk-in appointments will still be available for either at the health department building on Bono Road, however the health department will close if New Albany Floyd County Schools do. 

The Clark County Health Department testing and vaccination site on Wall Street in Jeffersonville will be closed Thursday. A decision has not yet been made on whether they will reopen Friday.

Schools going to remote instruction or closing

Jefferson County Public Schools will pivot to nontraditional instruction, or NTI, Thursday. 

The district predicts the weather may have impacts on Friday as well, but officials haven’t decided if they’ll hold in-person classes or use another NTI day. An email to families says JCPS may call off school altogether if there are widespread power outages.

District officials say they will decide Thursday on the course for Friday.

The state only gives districts 10 NTI days, and Thursday will be the ninth JCPS is using. Once JCPS runs out of NTI days, they won’t be able to go into district-wide remote instruction. Any further weather-related closures in the future may mean making up school days at the end of the year.

Greater Clark County Schools in Indiana will move to remote instruction for the rest of the week.

The Louisville Archdiocese says Catholic schools in Jefferson County will be closed tomorrow (Thursday).

To follow snow and ice information, visit SnowKY.ky.gov. For road conditions, visit GoKY.ky.gov.

This story has been updated.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.
Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.
Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.