January 9, 2014

Editorial: Lessons from the Ice Storm

Bone-chilling cold. Tree-cracking ice. Mounds of crispy snow.

It has been a challenging winter, so far. But we can handle it, no problem. And one of the reasons is that we survived the Ice Storm of 1998.

When that weather monster smacked the North Country, it was the harshest hit in centuries. No one was prepared for the enormity of the 1998 disaster, which pretty much shut down the area for days. We lost power, mobility, business, education, landscape — and lives.

That type of extensive shutdown is not likely to happen again, though, because of the lessons we learned during that trying time. For proof of that, just consider the storms so far this winter.

The snow has been no issue; that’s typical winter life in the North Country. But this year, we have had to cope with wildly fluctuating temperatures, whipping winds and, mostly, an abundance of ice.

While it wasn’t anything on the scale of the 1998 Ice Storm, it certainly could have knocked us down. But it didn’t.

The North Country was better prepared. In the 15 years since the big storm, firefighters, highway crews, police and other first-responders have been through special training. Government grants have supplied them with better equipment.

Utility companies have made adjustments that better protect the power systems. Their crews can be seen in the summers, trimming back limbs that could come down on power lines. They have fortified their systems and upgraded backups. During the recent ice storm, they had out-of-area crews parked at local hotels, just waiting to be put into service.

Emergency-service agencies from northern counties now work as a team. They have communications worked out so everyone can coordinate storm response. That important effort is aided by better technology.

As soon as the forecast called for trouble during the past two storms, county employees activated and staffed emergency operations centers.

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