Recipe for an ice storm

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By Stephen Lega

Gov. Steve Beshear has called the 2009 ice storm the worst storm in Kentucky's history.

Big ice storms are not common in Kentucky, but people still need to be aware of when they could happen, according to Tim Funk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"Weather affects everyone," he said.

Kentucky experiences a variety of types of precipitation - snow, sleet, hail and freezing rain - and the type of precipitation can be just as important as the amount, Funk said.

Snow starts out as ice crystals in the cold air thousands of miles above the ground. Provided the air is cold all the way to ground level, those ice crystals will remain as snow, Funk said.

Warm air normally pushes out cold air, but sometimes the warm air will move over the colder air at ground level. When this happens, it can create the conditions for freezing rain, according to Funk.

He added that freezing rain usually falls through warm air 4,000 to 8,000 feet above the ground. After the rain falls, it freezes, making it more likely to cling to things.

"It's most likely to freeze on elevated surfaces like cars, trees and power lines," Funk said.

The ground temperature prior to the rainfall can also affect what happens, he added.

"That, I think, was a big problem in this particular storm because it had been cold before [the storm]," Funk said.

The National Weather Service's weather watcher in Bradfordsville recorded 2.82 inches of precipitation (mostly rain and melted snow) between Jan. 26-28. During that same time period, Lebanon received 1.8 inches of precipitation, according to The Weather Channel.

The purpose of the National Weather Service is to protect people and property, according to Funk. That includes being prepared for bad weather.

"We always tell people to always have a plan in case of hazardous conditions," he said.

As a part of that preparation, Funk encouraged everyone to have an NOAA weather radio.

"Be aware of what's going on and what it might become," he said, "and how it might affect you."

  Preparing for a winter storm   Have extra blankets on hand.

Ensure that everyone in your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots.

Assemble disaster supply kits for your home and your vehicles with:

- First aid kit and essential medications.

- Battery-powered NOAA Weather radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.

- Canned food and can opener.

- Bottled water (at least one gallon of water per person per day to last at least three days).

- Extra warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat.

Have your car winterized before winter storm season.  

More tips available at the American Red Cross website: www.redcross.org (under "Preparation and Getting Started").