Local News

January 6, 2008

Ice Storm ’98 a nightmare for emergency workers

‘I had a good idea something severe was coming’

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County Emergency Services Director Raymond Thatcher knew a big storm was coming in January 1998.

He just didn’t know it would be a storm of the century.

Thatcher and emergency services managers in Clinton and Franklin counties have vivid memories of the Ice Storm that devastated northern New York 10 years ago.

“I had a good idea something severe was coming,” Thatcher said. “We had been monitoring weather reports since the Sunday night before it hit.

“On Tuesday, we had freezing rain and an ice jam on the Ausable River.

“By Wednesday night, we knew something major was going to happen.”

He decided to stay over at his office at the county’s emergency operations center, which was then in the basement of the Essex County Courthouse in Elizabethtown.

“By 7:30 p.m., we had calls about icing and trees coming down in the southern end of the county.

“At 12:30 p.m., the power went out. It was suddenly quiet and eerie. The storm had arrived.”


The county immediately went into a state of emergency, and the operations center was activated and staffed.

“I opened our disaster plan for the county,” Thatcher said. “We had trees down, wires down. We opened shelters. Everything you could imagine from a storm of that size, we had.”

By Friday, a fleet of power company trucks had arrived to try to restore power.

Essex County also got help from the Army National Guard, State Police, forest rangers, Environmental Conservation Police, the State Emergency Management Office, Department of Transportation, County Public Works Department, town highway departments, the Department of Health, Radio Amateur Civilian Emergency Services, public utilities and numerous other agencies.

Thatcher said local fire and emergency-medical services volunteers worked long hours and did an outstanding job.

“It was extremely busy. From Wednesday through Saturday, I didn’t go home. I stayed at the EOC. We had calls 24 hours a day.”

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