FRANKFORT — It was 27 years ago in mid-January that Kentucky saw one of its most severe winter storms in history, which included freezing rain, record snow and record cold, all in the space of just a few days.
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, as much as two feet 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. Both were all-time records, but it only stood for four years in Louisville, when a February 1998 snowstorm dumped 22.4 inches on the city. A co-op weather observer in Paducah also saw 15 inches from the storm, although parts of western Kentucky saw “only” a few inches. 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 and trucks 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 snowpack, many all-time record low temperatures were recorded on Jan. 19, including minus 18at Jackson, minus 22 at Louisville, minus 25 at London, minus 27 at Frankfort, and an unbelievable minus 37 at Shelbyville, setting a new all-time record low for the state that still stands today.
“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.