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LEX 18's Bill Meck pleads caution ahead of ice storm

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Posted at 1:16 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 13:16:23-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Weather models have shown the potential for a serious ice storm this week, and as it approaches, LEX 18's Chief Meteorologist Bill Meck is asking central Kentuckians to prepare for the worst.

As of Tuesday morning, Meck said sleet was the "best-case scenario."

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"There's a cold layer up near the clouds so whatever is falling out of the cloud is in the form of snow. It hits a layer of temperatures that are above freezing, so the snowflake melts," Meck said. "Now if that warm layer is thick and it just hits a cold layer at the bottom and that cold layer at the bottom where we are, where we live, where the trees out of the powerlines are, it may only be a few 100 feet thick. But, it's enough so that it falls as rain, and then turns to ice on everything that it touches and that's where you run into the power lines the trees everything else having issues and can turn into big, big real-world problems."

As of Tuesday morning, Meck predicts the storm will start Wednesday night lasting into the day on Thursday.

"For many of us that if we end up with mostly sleet out of this, you're going to be wondering what's all the hullabaloo about?" he said. "But for areas that are going to see the freezing rain, and somebody is going to get it. Within our viewing area somebody is going to get a major ice storm."

He explained those areas are "likely going to be south of I-64. If I were to put a line on it right now, take Highway 52, and go 20-25 miles, either side of that. So, we're talking Danville and Richmond. So, a little south of 64 but north of the parkways in southern Kentucky. Somebody in there is going to get a major ice storm. And with that, you're talking power outages, you are talking roads becoming hard to get around on because of ice. You're talking tree damage. All the awful things that go along with an ice storm."

The thought of an ice storm reminds most Kentuckians of two years, 2003 and 2009.

He reminisced spending a week in someone else's basement who had power saying, "The Lexington ice storm in 2003 was toward the high end of the crippling, which was just under an inch of ice in most places but enough to cause tremendous tree damage, which then led to the power outages."

The 2009 storm was historic. Meck explained the "storm of 2009 is considered to be one of the great weather events in Kentucky weather history. It affected a huge geographic swath of Kentucky. In our area hit Danville, really hard. It was a bigger ice storm, it was synoptic meteorological a bigger system -- a stronger system. So that is one of the storms of record for a lot of people, but in Lexington, '03 was the big one."

Meck said the 2003 storm taught central Kentuckians lessons about trimming trees.

"One of the reasons why the '09 storm didn't do as much in Lexington, as the '03 one did is that the '03 storm took out a lot of trees. And so, nature did the work of cleaning up around the utility lines in a horrible way but it was done. So for that reason why the '09 wasn't as bad and Lexington as it, otherwise could have been. Since that time, I know Kentucky Utilities, and other folks have learned lessons," he said. "And I know that KU just undertook a major tree thinning process that went through the south side of Lexington. Folks weren't happy about that because they lost very old trees. But, that's one of the things that they did to help mitigate any potential problems with something like this."

Other lessons Meck hopes Kentuckians have learned is the proper way to heat one's house during an extended power outage. He explained the 2009 storm proved fatal for reasons it should not have.

He warned more than, "two dozen deaths that occurred [in 2009]. Mostly because people were trying to heat their house with things they should not be heating their house with. Like a grill. Your propane grill is not a heat source for your house. Carbon monoxide poisoning is what killed most of the folks in the '09 storm. So, do not do that. Find a different way to stay warm."

In advance of this ice storm which Meck said will surely lead to power outages there are a few items to remember:

  • Be prepared to heat your home with a fireplace and bundle with blankets
  • Locate your weather radio
  • Charge extra battery packs to keep your phone and other electronics charged
  • Download the LEX 18 News and Weather app to receive updates if you lose power and cannot turn on your TV
  • Stock your pantry and fridge

"For this event coming in here we're probably going to be just under what would be that crippling threshold. It's still going to be a lot of ice, it is still going to be a major system with a half or three-quarters of an inch likely coming out of this and there will likely be power outages," said Meck.

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