Remembering 2003: Historic ice storm recalled as wintry mix closes in

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Posted at 3:29 PM, Feb 01, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — With an ice storm in our forecast, there’s no better time to try to learn from our history than the present. In 2003 Lexington and the surrounding areas were all but shut down when a thick layer of ice coated roads, interstates, tree limbs, and power lines.

“’03 is the pinnacle,” said LEX 18 meteorologist Tom Ackerman. Ackerman has been with LEX 18 since 2002, and he vividly remembers that 2003 storm.

“When you want the most concentrated, worst impact from an icing event I’ve ever experienced, that’s definitely the top-tier event,” he added.

Ackerman and the rest of our Storm Tracker team are not forecasting a storm with that same kind of impact we saw in 2003, but when ice is involved, you don’t need to it be comparable to anything from the past for it to be incredibly problematic.

“Oh, we’ll take snow any day,” said John Bobel, from Fayette County’s Division of Emergency Management.

“Snow is manageable. Snow you can plow. Ice makes the roads impassable, it hangs on power lines, so you get power outages,” Bobel continued.

Bobel also noticed that this wintry mix is expected to begin with rain and a lot of it on Wednesday. That will not only cause potential flooding issues, but it makes pre-treating the roads with brine a useless exercise.

“Rain will just wash it off, so that would be a waste of money,” Bobel said of treating roads for snow and ice when rain is expected to precede those elements.

Ackerman said, as Bill Meck also explained in a story on the anniversary of the 2009 ice storm, which hammered Danville and Mercer County, that the 2003 storm knocked out a lot of vegetation in the area here, so a heavy icing now might not be as damaging, but no less of a concern.

“If you get enough accumulation you can have some weaker tree limbs come down causing sporadic power outages,” he said.

Bobel said the biggest lesson from 2003 is to always be prepared for the worst.

“Make sure you have food, water, medicine, other supplies. If you have an infant in the home (have) diapers, formula, baby food. If you have alternate heating sources, bring the firewood in and make sure you have those devices cleaned up. Now is not the time to be using a fireplace you haven’t used in ten years,” Bobel warned.