By Brad Bowman
With an anticipated high of 13 degrees, Tuesday’s rising temperature started to offer a reprieve from the ‘polar vortex’, a low pressure system with fast winds, which descended on Kentucky with temperatures averaging at -4 degrees for Henry County.
Due to an increase in the wind chill factor topping at -25 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, with surface winds at 10 to 20 mph Henry County was under a wind chill warning until 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The extreme cold temperatures caused public schools to close Monday and Tuesday for safety reasons, the courthouse to open Monday and Tuesday 2 hours later and a power outage Tuesday night. Public officials emphasized public safety concerns.
“Having two missed days this early is unprecedented,” said Eminence Superintendent Buddy Berry. “We don’t have students waiting at bus stops, but our angle is students trying to walk to school in temperatures where frost bite can occur within five to 10 minutes. The single digits isn’t as much of a concern as is the wind chill.”
Berry said the first five accumulated make up days were built into the spring break calendar. The two days missed this week will be taken from spring break resulting in an eight-day break instead of 10.
Both Eminence Independent School District and Henry County Public Schools canceled school for Tuesday by 3 p.m on Monday. Given a decrease of temperature by the wind chill factor — which brought temperatures to -2 degrees by 5 p.m. Monday — the decision was almost given for Henry County Public School students who mostly commute to school by bus.
“Most of our bus stops are door-to-door bus stops, but some students have long farm drives to walk and wait out in the cold weather,” said Kevin Whitt, Transportation Director for Henry County Public Schools. “We travel 2,000 miles a day in our buses. Some take longer to get going in this kind of weather. Although the heating systems in these buses are better than when we were kids, if a bus goes down you have students sitting on it.”
Some students transfer on buses twice before getting to school, according to Whitt, which would raise safety concerns.
“We are always out early in the morning looking at conditions,” Henry County Superintendent Tim Abrams said. “Kevin Whitt and I look at this end of the county by the school and near Eminence, Denise Perry, Director of Student Services, lives near the Port Royal area and Mike Lucas, Student Resource Officer, and William Mahoney, Associate Director of Transportation, look at the eastern part of the county. The safety of our students is our concern and we didn’t want them waiting at bus stops for long period of time in the extreme weather.”
Abrams said make up days were built into the calendar, not voted on as misreported in an earlier story, for Jan. 2 and Jan. 3, but were called off due to weather. The days will be added to end of the year with a make up also on President’s Day in Februrary.
“It’s not a horrible situation yet (with makeup days), but with a lot of winter left to go it is a little disconcerning,” Abrams said.
The cold presented challenges for some areas of Port Royal, Turners Station and Campbellsburg Monday night. Kentucky State Police Dispatch reported outages on Cardinal Drive, Lake View Drive and Phillip Avenue in Campbellsburg due to a blown transformer. Campbellsburg Mayor Rex Morgan opened city hall as a shelter for those in need.
“It was weird to have power out at some houses and not others,” said Campbellsburg Mayor Rex Morgan. “The power was out at my house on Lake Road, but it is back on, and I’m waiting on Public Works to let me know about the Turners Station and Port Royal area.”
By 11 p.m. power had been restored in the Campbellsburg area. LG&E requested customers starting Monday morning to conserve power as the demand for electricity and gas took a toll on the grid. By Monday morning, 1,000 reports of outages had occurred. By Tuesday morning, LG&E reported 21 people affected by an outage in Orchard Grass Hills in Oldham County near Crestwood.
During such extreme temperatures LG&E suggests turning off any lights and appliances not in use, make sure registers are not covered and opened, add extra blankets to beds and wear layers of warm clothing and use a slow cooker or microwave instead of a stove to warm food.
Shelby Energy Cooperative sent a notice out asking the customers to curb electricity consumption Tuesday.
“We are asking consumers to reduce their use of electricity to alleviate the strain on the electric system,” said Debra Martin, President & CEO. “We are asking people to turn off non-essential lighting, adjust thermostats and avoid the use of dishwashers, washers, dryers and other electrical equipment especially during the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.”