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Cleaning Up After The "Snowpocalypse"

The Harrodsburg Herald of Harrodsburg, Kentucky

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Winter Storm Octavia Leaves A Frozen Mess Behind

Winter storm Octavia may be gone, but she's not forgotten, thanks to the 10 inches of snow and the Arctic cold she left behind in Mercer County.

On Friday, Feb. 20, four days after Octavia passed, the low in Harrodsburg was -18 degrees and the temperature never climbed above freezing all day. The cold hampered cleanup efforts, the subfreezing temperatures making road salt useless. Disposing of the huge piles of snow left over from the plowed streets was a huge problem.

The Harrodsburg Public Works Department spent most of Thursday and Friday hauling snow from the section of Main Street in front of the Judicial Center and City Hall to dump it behind the public works building on West Factory Street. By Friday afternoon the snow pile covered an area a little bit bigger than a baseball diamond and more than six feet high.

"This snow is just frustrating," said Harrodsburg Public Works Superintendent Leo Vaughan. "Three or four inches we can deal with, but when it's 10 or 11 inches..." Vaughan shook his head.

The snow-clogged streets kept the Harrodsburg Police Department and Mercer County Sheriffs Office busy as well. Officers helped stuck motorists all over the city and the county.

HPD Communications Supervisor Gail Napier said that, from Feb. 16 - 20, police logged 172 services calls, mostly transporting people to work at the hospitals and nursing homes, picking up medications and even feeding animals belonging to housebound elders. Police also made 43 medical runs, which Napier said was fewer than normal.

"Surprisingly, we have had only 14 non-injury accidents and no injury accidents," Napier said.

The weather kept the schools in Burgin and Mercer County closed all week.

A water pipe burst after freezing over and the greenhouse roof collapsed from the weight of the snow on Friday, but Burgin Independent School reopened on Monday, Feb. 23.

Superintendent Martha Collier said the school followed its snow plan, with buses meeting students at prearranged pick up points. Starting Tuesday, buses would resume their full routes, but Burgin would continue observing a one-hour delay. "The daylight makes it easier for drivers when there's snow on the ground," Collier said.

So far this school year, students have missed eight days, three from the flu before Christmas break and five from the snowstorm. Collier said three of the missed days would be made up from the first three days of spring break.

Mercer County Schools announced on their website that classes would resume on Tuesday. Public Relations Director Becky Holt said school officials wanted to make sure that all bus routes were clear of ice and snow before reopening school.

Over all, Mercer County has been spared the misery seen elsewhere in Octavia's wake. The roof at the headquarters shared by the Stanford police and fire departments collapsed on Friday. First Street in Danville caved in after a water main froze.

The Arctic cold has been blamed for five deaths across Kentucky in the past week, including a 70-year-old Wayne County man who died less than 50 feet from his home and a 24-year-old University of Kentucky nurse found dead in the parking lot of her Lexington apartment complex.

Most local officials agree that the Octavia "snowpocalypse" was not as bad as the ice storm that Struck Mercer County in 2003. "That was worse to me, personally," said Harrodsburg City Clerk Kim Stinnett. "We were without electricity for 11 days."

While power outages were recorded across Kentucky, the biggest one locally happened early Friday morning, when the Buena Vista substation went dark, leaving residents in southern Mercer County and northern Garrard County without power for over four hours.

"It was so cold we couldn't turn it on all at once," said Kentucky Utilities spokesman Cliff Feltham. Instead, power crews reactivated the power grid in stages, for fear of overloading the system.

"It took us a while, but we got there," Feltham said.

One good thing Octavia might have left behind is an appreciation for how much we all rely on mostly unheralded public workers—road crews, police and emergency officers and utility workers.

"We can't praise them enough," said Mercer County Emergency Management Director Mike Burke. "They did a phenomenal job."

But there's no time to rest on their laurels. The National Weather Service is not predicting relief from the cold until Sunday, March 1.

Copyright 2015 The Harrodsburg Herald, Harrodsburg, Kentucky. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 26, 2015

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