The topography of the Bluegrass State has something for everyone. With a mean altitude of just 750 feet, the mountains of the east are balanced by the fairly level coalfields of the west and the uplands of the Lexington Plain. Harlan County boasts the highest point, Black Mountain. At an elevation of 4,139 feet, it’s a valuable part of the Cumberland range in the southeastern section of the Appalachian Mountains. Pike County’s Pine Mountain and its fellow peaks are absolutely gorgeous pretty much all year round, but nature’s beauty can come at a cost. Winter weather can strike at any moment during colder months, and sometimes without much warning. Whether you’re on your way to somewhere specific, you drive for a living, or just plan on exploring, extra care needs to be given to safety when conditions are snowy and icy. Windy mountain roads don’t take long to get slippery, and even just one car losing control can cause serious problems. Eastern Kentucky is no stranger to icy conditions, and accidents are common. For example, Johnson County was dealing with wrecks so severe in 2015 they had to close the road until the weather improved and the crashes were cleared up. Drivers could not travel on the Mountain Parkway from mile marker 35 all the way to the end until the hazardous driving conditions passed. US 23, US 119, US 460, KY 80 and KY 194 are other local roads that commonly give folks trouble during the winter. Traveling between cities such as Pikeville and Paintsville can present dangerous conditions. Driving on mountain roads in the winter is an important skill. If you don’t drive in bad weather routinely, you may fail to plan for encountering snow and ice. The truth is, even when snow has been plowed, the road’s surface might still have patches or sheets of ice that are difficult to detect until you’re sliding on it sideways. Be careful out there, and consider practicing these few safety tips:
- Accelerate gradually to help prevent the wheels from spinning.
- Look ahead to anticipate what’s coming. Sometimes a little more speed gives the momentum needed to power through snow drifts or get up hills, so pay attention to the road.
- Use your brakes gently and brake before a curve while your wheels are straight.
- Keep a good distance between you and the vehicles in front of you. The more distance, the more time you’ll have to react and to stop.
- Maintain visibility by keeping the windshield defrosted. A good technique for this is to use the car’s heater and fan alongside the air-conditioner. In white-out conditions, utilize your hazard lights so other vehicles on the road can see you.
- Make sure you have plenty of gas and a few emergency supplies on hand such as a blanket, flashlight, and phone charger.