By KIM SMITH DEDAM and LOHR McKINSTRY, Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Hurricane Sandy didn’t cause much excitement in the North Country during the day Monday, but it was expected to gain force overnight.
The predicted powerhouse disrupted life before it even arrived, prompting numerous closures and cancellations for Monday and today.
STATES OF EMERGENCY
President Barack Obama declared New York a federal disaster area late Sunday, and area towns and counties followed suit Monday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had already designated a state of emergency Saturday, as the oceanfront cities prepared.
Essex County Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas (D-Jay) made the declaration just past noon Monday, allowing access to immediate emergency contracts as needed.
“We’re hoping for the best and planning for the worst,” Douglas said. “Seventy-mile-an-hour winds could have a devastating effect on us.”
Other towns declared emergencies as the day progressed. A state of emergency enables municipalities to hire contractors and purchase materials without a formal bid process.
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley made the declaration for the Essex County seat.
“The predictions are for high winds starting early this afternoon,” she said around midday Monday. “This could cause trees to fall on power lines, knocking out electric power. Because the storm is so large and causing damage downstate, it may be several days before all electric power can be restored.
“The best thing residents can do is stay off the roads starting this afternoon.”
Tupper Lake issued a joint declaration of emergency Monday, signed by Village Mayor Paul Maroun and Town Supervisor Roger Amell. It is to stay in effect until 2 p.m. Wednesday, when conditions will be assessed and a decision will be made as to whether it should be extended.
COLLEGES CUT CLASSES
Because of the potential impact of the storm, local colleges shut down early.
Plattsburgh State canceled all classes and events starting at 2 p.m. Monday. However, the campus remained open “with essential services intact for on-campus students,” according to a news release.
The college shuttle service shut down, and the Student Association van stopped taking people downtown.
As of Monday, the plan was to hold regular classes today.
Paul Smith’s College closed at 12:15 p.m. Monday. Classes and events at the private college were called off, and non-essential staff were being sent home. Lakeside Dining Hall will continue normal operations.
“At this time, normal operations on the rest of campus are expected to resume on Tuesday,” President John Mills said in an email to the campus community. “Updates will be issued as conditions warrant.
“Forecasters warn that Hurricane Sandy carries the threat of high winds and flooding. Power outages are possible. All members of the campus community should take proper precautions and avoid unnecessary travel during the storm,” he said.
“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has advised hunters and hikers to stay out of the backcountry until Sandy has passed. With that in mind, the college’s Office of Campus Safety will not be issuing student-owned firearms from the campus armory until the storm is gone,” Mills said.
Clinton Community College closed at 4 p.m. Monday, with all evening classes and activities canceled.
CCC plans to open for usual hours today, though status updates are available at www.clinton.edu or by calling 562-4384.
SCHOOLS OUT EARLY
Area schools canceled all after-school activities and sporting events on Monday. And a number of local schools released students early, including St. Regis Falls, Brushton-Moira, Northern Adirondack, Beekmantown, Westport, Peru and Northeastern Clinton.
Ticonderoga Central School Superintendent John McDonald Jr. said closing was to ensure safety of students and school staff.
He said that, as with most area schools, it’s still unknown whether they’ll resume classes today.
“Right now, we are going with a two-hour delay,” he said of Ticonderoga School District. “And people should monitor (the media) for further updates.”
Moriah also announced a two-hour delay for the start of classes today.
The American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region and its partners planned to open 11 shelters in its 17-county region. That included a shelter at the Town of Jay Community Center, 11 School Lane in AuSable Forks.
In Keeseville, a warm-up shelter is expected to open at 9 a.m. today, said Village Trustee Mary King. People can stop there for coffee and doughnuts this morning, with hot lunches served around the lunch hour. Later in the day, they plan to send people home with sandwiches, fruit and beverages.
If structural damage prevents residents of AuSable, Keeseville and Chesterfield from returning to their homes, they can stay all night, King said.
Flights into Plattsburgh International Airport on PenAir and Spirit were canceled Monday and today, according to Airport Manager Chris Krieg. He was unable to get information from Allegiant.
“The best thing I can tell people is to check specifically with their airlines,” Krieg said.
“Plattsburgh International Airport is fully staffed. We’re doing what we need to do to prepare to make sure things are secured for high wind.”
At Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear, Cape Air canceled all flights Monday and today, according to Airport Manager Corey Hurwitch.
HIGH WINDS EXPECTED
The National Weather Service maintained high-wind warnings and a flood watch for northern counties of New York and Vermont from Monday afternoon through today.
“Winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 70 miles per hour are anticipated across the western slopes. Winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour with gusts up to 60 miles per hour are likely for the Champlain and St. Lawrence Valley. Northeast winds will increase throughout the day,” the Weather Service in Burlington said.
People were warned to expect scattered downed trees and power lines and power outages.
A federal disaster declaration for all of New York state has already been issued.
Essex, Clinton and Franklin counties opened their Emergency Operations Centers in preparation for high winds.
A special storm information line was also put in operation for latest storm information. People can call 211 or 1 (888) 774-0289 to find out where shelters are opened and resources for public safety.
The information is also available at www.hudson211.org and clicking on the link to the Adirondack Region.
Emergency calls should be placed to 911.
Average rainfall expected in the North Country remained at 2 inches, with a flood watch in effect.
The State Department of Transportation said it had crews standing by at all garages, ready to reopen roads closed by falling trees. National Grid called in supplemental crews and said it was ready to remove fallen wires and restore power wherever necessary.
The power utility announced it was in “full mobilization mode” with 300 repair crews, 50 contractor crews and 200 tree-trimming crews ready statewide.
“We’re confident about our plans and the contingency of employees and crews we have ready to address restoration,” the company said in a statement.
New York State Electric & Gas also had crews on standby, company officials said.
In Plattsburgh, a League of Women Voters forum for State Supreme Court candidates, which had been planned for Monday night, was canceled. The forum would have brought all eight candidates together in Plattsburgh.
An Assembly debate scheduled for Malone on this evening was still on as of Monday.
BUS SERVICE STOPPED
Essex County Public Transit said it will not provide bus service on today or Wednesday. Plans call for service to resume on Thursday.
The Essex County Government Center is closed today except for essential personnel, Douglas said, with employees set to resume work starting midnight on Wednesday.
“Additionally, given the severity of the storm, we would encourage all employees to stay off the roadways during this period,” the email said.
The Halloween party planned for today at Impeerium Peer Network at Suite E, 14 Healey Ave. in Plattsburgh has been postponed and will now take place from 1 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8.
Planned Parenthood of the North Country New York reported all of its health centers would be closed until Wednesday.
The Clinton County Youth Bureau’s Trick-or-Trot Fun Run, scheduled for today, will instead be held Thursday, Nov. 1, at the City of Plattsburgh Gym Complex, with registration at 4:30 pm.
The North Country Regional Blood Donor Center community blood drives planned for today at the Malone campus of North Country Community College and at the Morrisonville Ambulance Service have also been canceled.
— Editor Lois Clermont and Staff Writer Dan Heath contributed to this report.
The Press-Republican will be updating its storm coverage throughout the day on Twitter and at pressrepublican.com. Check in frequently to see what is happening. You can report cancellations at news@press republican.com or by calling 565-4148.