Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley held a press conference at the Harlan County courthouse on Thursday to address the possibility of upcoming severe winter weather in the next few days.
“The reason for today’s briefing is first and foremost about the winter weather we’re anticipating over the next couple of days,” Mosley said. “My staff participated in a conference call with the National Weather Service just a little while ago, and it has been stressed to us there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding this winter storm that is forecast to effect Harlan County over the coming days.”
Mosley said the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning that will be in effect from 7 p.m. Thursday until 7 p.m. Saturday. The system should begin to impact Harlan County in the overnight hours between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“It’ll begin as a wintry mix that will continue throughout the morning,” Mosley said. “The mix is expected to turn over to snow later in the day Friday and continue through Saturday afternoon.”
Mosley said it is projected that Harlan County will receive between 4 and 8 inches of snow, with higher elevations possible receiving approximately 12 inches of snow.
Mosley said the possibility of a quarter inch of ice accumulation is a concern.
“Travel could become treacherous and possibly impassable in many areas,” Mosley said. “The other concerns are the very likely and possible potential for power outages.”
Mosley said Christ’s Hands will be open 24 hours a day through Sunday for people to take shelter. To reach Christ’s Hands by phone, call 606-573-6030.
“We do have plenty of salt on hand at the county level,” Mosley said. “Our road crews have been reviewing all roads in all areas today and have them in passable condition and are prepared to be out to assist with snow and ice removal when necessary.”
Mosley said Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill has been working with volunteer fire departments and rescue squads to prepare for the event.
“We’ve also been in contact with the water districts to advise them to be prepared in case leaks or water issues were to arise similar to what we had last year,” Mosley said. “We’ve been in contact with Kentucky Utilities and Cumberland Valley Electric, both are monitoring the weather situation and will have people on standby to respond quickly in the event the county were to face any power outages. That said, please keep in mind many power lines are located on mountainous terrain and are very difficult to reach in times of bad weather.”
Mosley said in an emergency situation, people should call 911 immediately, however if it is not an emergency, people should refrain from calling 911.
“Do not call 911 to report things such as water leaks or power outages,” said Mosley. “If you’re calling 911 for water leaks and power outages and just to check on road conditions, you’re tying up valuable emergency lines that need to be used in the event of an emergency. If you need assistance and it is not an emergency, please call (emergency management office) 606-573-6082 or (Harlan County Judge-Executive’s Office) 606-573-2600.”
Mosley said road conditions for state roads can be learned by calling 511 or the information is also available at the state’s website at 511.ky.gov. For questions concerning county roads, the Harlan County Road Garage can be reached at 606-573-6536.
“Travel is going to be very impacted by this,” Mosley said. “We anticipate tomorrow being a very dangerous situation.”
Mosley asked that travel should only be attempted if it is absolutely necessary.
“Have enough food and water to do you for three days,” said Mosley. “Make sure you have your medicines.”
Mosley said for people to make sure they have flashlights, batteries, and fuel for alternate heat sources if possible. He said the need for more shelters will be evaluated if necessary.
Mosley also addressed a question concerning reports of state roads in Harlan County not receiving the same attention as state roads in Bell County.
“Here’s what I can tell you,” Mosley said. “The local state garage is equipped with some talented people that are working around the clock…the problem is Harlan County has 328 miles of state maintained road.”
Mosley said by comparison, Bell County only has approximately 225 of state maintained road.
“They have about 90 less miles of road, and U.S. 25 is cleared by a private contractor,” Mosley explained. “Here, the road crews have to do all the roads…Bell County has the same amount of staff as Harlan County does…hopefully the state will look at that. We’ve talked to our state rep. Rick Nelson about it…essentially, you’ve got the same amount of staff in Harlan County as you do in Bell County with the same equipment, with almost twice as much maintenance to take care of. It’s not fair, it’s not a good allocation of resources by the state.”
Mosley said Nelson has spoken with state officials concerning the situation. Mosley said he spoke with Kentucky State Secretary of Transportation Mike Hancock and they are committed to addressing the issue.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde