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Officials hope for mild winter, offer safe driving tips

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"It's already the first of the year and we've not seen much of nothing. I've got my fingers crossed."

By Calen McKinney

 

The Farmer's Almanac might say this winter will be worse than last, but, so far, Taylor Countians haven't seen much wintry weather.

The winter season officially began Saturday, Dec. 21. There is a chance of snow in today's forecast.

County Road Foreman Brian Smothers said the county has seen cool temperatures in the 30s and 40s, but not any snow just yet. And while he said the radar for the next 10 days shows cooler temperatures, there's only a chance of wintry weather.

"It's already the first of the year and we've not seen much of nothing," Smothers said. "I've got my fingers crossed."

Smothers said the county has seven trucks and about 400 tons of salt - which is mostly from last year - should the county see some snow.

"We should be good for the rest of the year, I hope," he said.

When snow starts to fall, a truck is taken to each of the county's six magisterial districts and the other goes to salt the county's public parking lots.

At the city's garage, City Street Supervisor Holland Milby says he believes the community will see some snow, but he doesn't believe it will be a bad winter.

"I hope not," he said. "You never know."

Should there be snow in the city limits, Milby said the city's three trucks and about 90 tons of salt are ready. City trucks salt heavily traveled areas first, including downtown, Cherokee, Lowell Avenue, North Central Avenue and the bypass.

Pat Hardesty, Taylor County Extension agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the Farmer's Almanac is predicting a slightly worse winter this year, even though last year's was very mild itself.

He said wooly worms are often used to predict the severity of winter. So far this year, the wooly worms Hardesty has seen have had large bands of color on them, which seem to indicate a mild winter.

But nevertheless, he said, there has been more cold weather this year, which could be a sign of more snow and ice since there is more moisture in the air.

Hardesty said he has heard that the number of fogs in August can be used to guess the number of snowfalls a community will have. This August, he said, there was fog the morning of about half the days during the month.

However, Hardesty said, the Taylor County community hasn't seen significant snowfall in many years and temperatures haven't fallen low enough to completely freeze ponds.

According to the Weather Channel, meteorologists are estimating that Kentucky will see a moderate winter.

Staying Safe

Smothers and Milby say there are ways to stay safe this winter, should the county see some snow or ice.

"Of course, the best thing is just to stay at home," Smothers said. "Especially the young ones, they really have no business at all."

Milby agrees and says young drivers shouldn't be behind the wheel in winter unless they have an experienced driver in their passenger seat.

His advice for winter driving is simple.

"Just take it easy is all I can say," he said.

But for those who have to venture out into the snow or ice, Smothers said drivers should give each other plenty of room.

If a driver typically leaves space for three or four cars between them and the next vehicle, Smothers said, they should leave about eight in snow.

"That's when you're gonna have trouble, stopping," he said.

Smothers said he recommends people take time to plan their trips and leave extra time should they have to go to work or a store.

Driving in ice, Smothers said, is a completely different story than taking a vehicle out in snow.

"We don't even like to get out in ice. It's totally different," he said. "There is no good way to drive on ice. You can't stop. You can't go."

Milby said he agrees that ice creates really poor driving conditions.

"People ought to be real careful," he said. "Not drive unless they have to."

Smothers said a common driving mistake in winter weather is people believing they can stop, when snow might make that difficult. And he said drivers often simply stop while driving, which could be dangerous for drivers behind them.

Milby said drivers often just get scared while driving in wintry weather and that can be extremely dangerous and oftentimes is the reason people overcorrect when they slide on snow or ice.

"You can't give a car too much gas," he said. "You can't brake all at once."

Milby said drivers should make sure they take off and brake smoothly.

"When you're taking off, you just barely got to edge off."

Kentucky road condition information is available by dialing 511 or visiting online at www.511.ky.gov.

KSP Tips

Kentucky State Police reports that slick roads were a factor in 12,034 crashes and nearly 75 fatalities in 2012.

The KSP offer the following tips to keep drivers safe this winter.

• Avoid travel unless necessary when winter weather is in your area.

• Slow down.

• Always wear your seat belt.

• Leave early - allow more travel time and expect delays.

• Increase distance between vehicles - it takes significantly longer to stop on snow covered or icy roadways.

• Clear all windows on a vehicle before traveling - having unobstructed vision is vital to avoid running off of the road or having a collision.

• Turn on the vehicle's headlamps. Remove any dirt, mud or snow.

• Use caution on bridges and overpasses as they are susceptible to freezing before roadways.

• Avoid using cruise control - cruise can cause the vehicle's wheels to continue turning on a slippery surface when speed needs to be decreased.

• Ensure a vehicle has a full tank of gas in the event a driver is stranded for an extended period of time.

• Charge a cellular phone before departure.

• Take a blanket.

• Notify a family member or a friend of travel plans prior to departure so if travel is interrupted, someone will know.

• Be patient - bad weather also limits the capabilities of law enforcement officers and emergency crews and increases response time. Also, keep in mind that they will be experiencing a high volume of requests for service.

• Attempt to move a vehicle out of the roadway if involved in a minor, non-injury traffic collision, especially if dangerous area such as a curve or a blind hill.

• If a vehicle is stranded or wrecked but not in the roadway, attempts to recover it will have to wait until conditions improve for safety considerations.

Residents can contribute to highway safety by reporting erratic drivers to the Kentucky State Police toll-free at (800) 222-5555. Callers can remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number, if possible.