Why Roads Are So Icy This Time

Tony describes why roads are so bad this morning.

Route 645 in Martin County, Ky. (from e-reporter Melissa McCoy)

Main Roads Suffer Triple Whammy

A rare chain of events has led to what many long timers here at WSAZ, myself included, are calling some of the worst road conditions we have witnessed here in the Tri-State area, and not just this winter!

This picture from state route 645 through Martin County at sunset shows the story the best. Roads partially caked in snow and ice despite an afternoon of partial sun. Thanks to Mellisa McCoy of Inez for the shot.

The sequence that set the formation of this compacted snow/ice into motion started Sunday evening as rain turned to freezing rain and sleet. That icy concoction fell for a 4-5 hour period and was accompanied by a stout drop in temperature into the upper 20s.

First a thin film of ice formed as the rain froze on a suddenly cold ground only to be topped by a crust of sleet a quarter to half inch deep.

It was at this point that roads needed to be heavily salted and plowed (some were) and traffic needed to churn that salt into a rapid melting agent. But it was the middle of the night and frankly who knew what how the road was going to behave.

Instead, the roads were barren of traffic late last night and salt that was dropped was not ground up.

As the sleet kept peppering down, it soon accumulated a thick crust that would prove impervious to the in coming snowfall and plunging temperatures.

Instead by sunrise Monday with virtually nobody on our roads (our Newschannel 3 reporters used terms like Ghost town and wasteland to describe even urban settings), snow fell at the rate of a half an inch to an inch per hour for 6 to 10 hours.

Snow accumulated 3 to 6 inches generally across the region on top of the icy, impenetrable crust.

As plows and salt trucks made their rounds, temperatures plunged to near 10 degrees by 9am, rendering new salt virtually ineffective. The action of plowing struggled to get the crusty ice to break up.

Now some minimal morning traffic was compressing or regelating the snow into an even thicker and more impregnable mass.

With afternoon temperatures still in the teens, even when and where the sun came out, it was only capable of partially breaking up the compacted mass of ice and snow.

Then Monday night into Tuesday, still another deep freeze descended on the region assuring a rare March day when even main roads would be icy and slippery a full 18 hours after the snowstorm had ended.

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