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Louisville braces for below-freezing temperatures and icy roadways

Jacob Ryan
Louisville is expected to be hit with wintry weather and dangerously low temperatures this weekend.

Harsh, cold weather is making its way to Louisville and is expected to last throughout the holiday weekend.

The National Weather Service has placed Louisville and surrounding areas under a wind chill advisory beginning 10 p.m. Thursday through 1 p.m. Friday. Additionally, a winter weather advisory will go into effect 6 p.m. Thursday through 1 p.m. Friday.

“Are the weather people overhyping this? No,” NWS meteorologist John Gordon said. “100% chance tonight of the arctic express.”

Though the area is expected to receive one to three inches of snow, Gordon said the main concern for this weather event is dangerously low temperatures and wind chills.

He said wind chills will remain below zero through Sunday morning and won’t rise above freezing temperatures before Tuesday.

Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency ahead of the anticipated temperature drop which is expected to affect several regions of the state.

In flood and tornado-impacted areas, where people are still living in travel trailers, state officials say they have taken steps to keep residents safe over the weather event.

“We have ensured and double-checked and triple-checked all the winterized methods that we use by contractors: the insulating pipes and recently found antifreeze that was made for RVs to put in their systems to prevent wastewater systems from freezing up,” said Col. Jeremy Slinker, director of Kentucky Emergency Management.

Slinker said the state has opened several lines of communication for those living in trailers to both send and receive updates.

The state has plans in place to help evacuate people to state parks, if necessary.

Louisville city officials have also announced measures to prepare for the arctic front and ensure residents are safe.

The potential for a flash freeze means slick, icy road conditions are expected to start overnight Thursday and last into midday Friday.

Metro Public Works Director Vanessa Burns said the city’s snow team, which is made up of several different offices within Metro government, is ready to begin treating all 111 snow routes the city is responsible for.

“What we’re going to be doing is applying calcium chloride and salt mix as soon as possible to keep up with the storm,” Burns said.

The solution helps make precipitation “slushy” on roadways, making it easier to clear and for cars to pass through.

Snow team crews were not able to pre-treat roads ahead of Thursday night’s snowfall.

Mike Dolan, the snow team assistant director, said crews are expected to begin treatment Thursday evening.

“We’ll be staging our trucks at the top of our routes starting, hopefully, around 6:30 [or] 7 [p.m.], waiting for the weather to change so that we will be able to go ahead and start out routes with that,” Dolan said.

Each shift will have 60 trucks working 12 hours, according to Dolan. He said the city has more than enough salt on-hand to handle the inclement weather.

While Metro Public Works is responsible for local roadways, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will handle clearing the interstate.

For those who need to be on roads during the cold weather, officials advise using as much caution as possible and allowing for plenty of travel time.

“I’d like all the commuters to use caution, to give our people an opportunity to get the job done,” Burns said.

With temperatures dropping dangerously low, health officials warned about the dangers of hypothermia.

Hypothermia and frostbite can set in quickly in the weather conditions predicted to hit Louisville.

“Frostbite is an injury that’s going to be to your distal parts that are often exposed — so your fingers, your nose, chin, any part of your body that are routinely exposed,” said Dr. Stephanie Lokits, assistant director of nursing with Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness. “Hypothermia is just going to be any condition where your body temperature drops and remains low due to extreme cold exposure,”

Lokits said people spending large amounts of time outside, like unhoused people, could be particularly susceptible.

For those seeking shelter, operation white flag will be in effect while the wind chill remains below 35 degrees.

During this time, people can seek shelter at participating places until the weather improves.

People can call the Coordinated Shelter Access line at 502-637-BEDS to find available beds.

Additionally, the city is offering Metro buildings normally open to the public as warming centers during hours of operation.

Many of the same warnings are true for pets. Officials advise that people bring their pets inside and limit cold exposure as much as possible during the course of the winter storm.

Officials from LG&E said their power lines are designed to handle severe weather conditions, but power outages are possible.

People should report outages to LG&E and monitor their outage maps for updates.

Residents are advised to stay away from downed power lines.

If the power does go out and people need to use generators, officials said to be aware of the safety concerns associated with their use, including carbon monoxide poisoning.

Officials with the Louisville Fire Department said space heaters should be kept at least three feet away from people and flammable materials.

This story was updated.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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