Winter weather on Thursday afternoon wreaked havoc across Bell County, making driving conditions treacherous. Traffic was backed up along U.S. 25E due to road problems at the Cumberland Gap Tunnel and Log Mountain. Semi-trucks could not even make the climb up the hill along Log Mountain, at one point needing the assistance of a tow truck to get it moving.
According to Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe, the station received about 30 calls between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. regarding the weather.
Bell County Road Department Foreman Bruce Nunn stated their men were out on the road as soon as the snow hit. He said some of the hardest hit areas in the county were Middlesboro, Brownies Creek, Colmar, Hutch and areas near KY 66.
“Our main priority were the children on the school buses,” said Nunn. Officials within the Bell County School District stated at one point they had eight buses that had to pull off the road. There were no reported bus wrecks in the area.
Officials stated they had no warning of the impending snow, saying the radar they were watching was still showing rain and thunderstorms while it was snowing outside. The officials said they received their first warning of the snow five minutes after the snow had already hit.
Nunn stated road crews were sent out to cut paths and escort buses to make sure the children would make it home safely. After each of the buses made it to their destination, the road crews then fell back to the county roads and worked on them until about 10 p.m., according to Nunn.
“It was a miracle no one was seriously injured,” said Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock. “None of the several weather agencies we monitor closely predicted the snowmageddon to hit so hard and so fast.”
Brock stated they were ready for the event and the preparation paid off in the long run.
“When the buses became stranded, we were able (in a short period of time) to get the necessary resources to the stranded buses, get them free and then escort them until all of the kids were safely home,” said Brock.
Brock commended Bruce Nunn and the entire road department staff for the safe, professional way they handled the storm.
“The taxpayer was well served by those men and women during the storm,” said Brock.
Officials from the Bell County School District also commended the road department and Brock for their efforts during the storm.
Anthony Cloud can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 208.