LOUISVILLE, Ky/January 12, 2018(AP)(STL.News)— A wintry blast coated parts of Kentucky and Tennessee with sleet and ice on Friday, forcing schools to close as the region raced for a second punch with snow. Deeper South, parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama prepared for another round of winter weather.
Winter conditions made for hazardous driving conditions in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Truck stop employee Paige Harville said traffic was much lighter than usual early Friday along Interstate 24 at Paducah, Kentucky. “There’s not much of it,” she said. “Like nothing.”
It took her longer to drive to work, avoiding the back road she usually takes because of sleet.
“It was pretty slick,” she said. “I had to drive pretty slow.”
In nearby Mayfield in western Kentucky, postal workers arrived at work to find their delivery vehicles iced over. They had to de-ice the trucks before they could unlock them. Letter carrier Corey Asher was ready for treacherous conditions as he set out on his route as the sleet and freezing rain was turning to snow.
“The snow covers up the sleet and ice, so where you think you might have solid footing you may not,” he said. “So your steps have to be choppy today. You have to be real diligent about where you walk, and use hand rails.”
Winter storm warnings were posted for the western halves of both states as unseasonably warm weather in recent days gave way to frigid conditions. Forecasters predicted snow would cover the sheets of ice as temperatures dropped as the storm moved east.
In western Kentucky, roads were covered with layers of ice. On top of that was about three tenths of an inch of sleet, said National Weather Service meteorologist Robin Smith.
“Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to,” Smith warned.
Winds up to 35 mph (56 kph) further complicated driving.
“That’s buffeting the vehicles as well,” Smith said.
Roads in West Tennessee also were ice-covered, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said.
Meanwhile, forecasters predicted 2-5 inches (5-12 centimeters) of snow in the Louisville and Lexington areas of Kentucky later Friday as temperatures dropped.
Many school districts in Kentucky and Tennessee called off classes Friday. Several colleges and universities in both states also canceled classes, including at Vanderbilt University, Murray State University and Western Kentucky University.
Some flights were canceled at the Memphis airport.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam closed state offices Friday in West and Middle Tennessee due to the winter weather. The weather service warned that thick ice could topple trees and cause power outages.
The winter storm prompted Kentucky House and Senate leaders to call off Friday’s legislative session.
In northern Alabama, tens of thousands of people got the day off because of the possibility of icy weather. School systems in the state’s Tennessee Valley region shut down Friday as forecasters warned of the possibility of ice, sleet and snow that could coat roads. Four universities also closed, and several counties closed their offices for the day.
In central Louisiana, forecasters said parts of the state could get slick as rain was expected to slowly transition to freezing rain or a sleet and snow mix. In Mississippi, a light wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain was possible in the state’s northern counties through early Friday afternoon.
Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, and Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.