MT. VERNON — — Southern Illinois is about to see its first measurable precipitation of the winter season starting this evening and continuing through the weekend.
The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., has issued a winter storm watch covering Jefferson and most of the surrounding counties.
With temperatures in the 60's on Wednesday, it's hard to imagine any type of wintry weather would be in the forecast. However, beginning today, a pair of disturbances will move northeast across the area and continuing through the day Friday. As temperatures drop below freezing, a wintry mix of precipitation is expected across the entire region, according to the NWS.
Specifically, a winter storm watch is in effect from late tonight through Friday night. A winter storm watch means there is a potential for significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations that would greatly impact travel.
Freezing rain and sleet will overspread the area late tonight and Friday morning. The precipitation will gradually change to sleet and snow before coming to an end by the end of the day Friday.
The NWS stated the main impact will be significant accumulations of ice, sleet and snow which will likely result in treacherous driving conditions tonight and Friday. Additionally, some isolated power outages are possible. Freezing rain is expected to be most prevalent in Western Kentucky, the NWS reports.
Brandon Simmons, Jefferson County Highway Department engineer, said his department is ready to cover the nearly 200 miles of roadway if bad weather hits this weekend.
"We have five trucks ready to go, all of our spreaders are on, and we're ready to go," he said Wednesday.
Simmons said department employees will hit the road at the first sign of trouble.
"We may go out and do a preliminary salt spread, depending on what kind of event comes in. If it's ice, we'll probably go out beforehand and spread a nice layer to mitigate ice problems. We'll definitely hit the bridges, right off the bat," Simmons said.
Simmons said the county has an ample supply of salt since the last two winters have been mild.
"We generally try to order what we used that year to refill our bins. We probably have about 1,400 tons available. Any given run may take 60 to 70 tons, so if we have 15 events that would use it all up," he said.
About 400 tons of salt were used by the county last winter, Simmons estimated.