Remembering paralyzing winter storm of 1994

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - This week marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most severe winter storms in Kentucky history.


It began with freezing rain, the evening of Jan. 16, 1994, which changed over to heavy snow.  By the time the snow ended the following day, up to 26 inches of snow had fallen. 

Among official reporting stations, the National Weather Service office in Jackson reported 15.4 inches of snow from the storm, while the National Weather Service in Louisville measured 15.9 inches, a record that still stands today.  A co-op weather observer in Paducah also saw 15 inches from the storm.  Snow drifts up to 10 feet were also reported.


The heavy snow prompted then-Gov. Brereton Jones to order five interstate highways in Kentucky shut down for five days, with hundreds of cars stranded on the roads.


In eastern Kentucky, some towns were completely cut-off due to the heavy snow and were only accessible by helicopter.


Following the snowstorm, a bitterly cold arctic air mass moved south out of Canada.  Aided by the deep snow pack, record low temperatures were recorded, including minus 37 at Shelbyville on Jan. 19, which set a new all-time record for the state.


“It took almost a week for the city and state to clear roads and for life to return to normal,” said Larry Dunn, a flight dispatcher for the UPS hub in Louisville at the time.


There were two deaths in Kentucky due to the storm, 42,000 customers were without power for a week, and 46 counties were declared federal disaster areas.


The 1994 winter storm did not set daily snowfall records in many parts of Kentucky, because of the accumulations that came with the Blizzard of 1978.


While it is not expected to be anything like 1978 or 1994, a winter storm could affect much of Kentucky this weekend.


Ryan Sharp with the National Weather Service Office in Louisville says the coldest air of the season so far will blast into the region Saturday night and stay through Monday morning, causing a variety of issues through the weekend.  


“First, we could see localized high-water issues with 1-2 inches of rain during the day Saturday,” Sharp said.  “Saturday night, we will transition to snow, with points along and north of I-64 getting 1-3 inches.  Cold air blasting in overnight could cause freezing of any wet roads, with issues lingering through Sunday morning.”


Windchills could also drop to the single digits, Sunday morning, and possibly near zero in some areas on Monday morning.  

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