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'Ice is a worst-case scenario:' Scott Co. roads chief concerned

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Posted at 3:26 PM, Feb 02, 2022

SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — J.R. Brandenburg has been with the Scott County roads department for 22 years. He remembers well the significant ice storms central Kentucky went through in 2003 and 2009. So he knows how to prepare for what’s in the forecast this week.

“We’re spending all day going over the trucks, making sure we’ve got tire chains, everything is full of fuel,” he explained.

Brandenburg said the chainsaws have all been tested as well because, with an ice event, downed tree limbs can become a really big part of the problem and the clean-up.

A huge portion of the country is going to be under this storm, and the precipitation it brings will vary from location to location. Here in Kentucky, it began on Wednesday with rain, is expected to transition to freezing rain and sleet by Thursday afternoon, ultimately changing over to a minor snow event before it’s all said and done on Friday.

“Ice is a worst-case scenario for a road department,” Brandenburg said.

And it doesn’t need to be much to make it a nightmarish scenario. Even 1/8 to ¼ of an inch can be devastating to power lines, trees, and the roads. And pre-treating these roads in advance of this storm was not an option.

“Absolutely not. It’ll just wash off everything and not do a bit of good,” Brandenburg said of putting down brine before or while rain is falling.

So for J.R. and his crew, it’s a wait-and-see approach. Then once the rain begins to freeze they can hit the roads.

“That’s the only thing that’s going to actually do anything to the ice. It warms the roads,” he said of the salt in his barn.

Brandenburg said during a normal winter he’d use about 2,500 tons of salt across Scott County. Already, he’s plowed through 1,800 tons. (He began the season with about 5,000 tons, so there’s no concern about running out).

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“We’ve had some tricky snow so far,” he said of the several January storms we endured.

Now we’re looking at an even trickier ice storm. Brandenburg has 300 miles worth of roads he’s responsible for in Scott County, and a good chunk of those are narrow, rural roads on steep grades.

“You’ve got a 10-foot wide plow, on a 40,000-pound truck,” he said of the danger his drivers face when doing this work for the county. He then asked for patience from residents as it could take some time to get to every road.

“We’ve been through some bad situations, but we’ll get through it. We’ll stick with it until we get everything cleared. That’s all we can do,” he said.

That, and counting the days until spring, 45 if you’re keeping score.