Press-Republican

October 31, 2012

North Country lucks out

For us, Hurricane Sandy only an emergency drill

By LOHR McKINSTRY and DENISE RAYMO, Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — LEWIS — A few minor power outages from Hurricane Sandy were all the North Country saw overnight Tuesday as the storm fizzled out.

Essex, Franklin and Clinton counties operated their Emergency Operations Centers for 24 hours, and all three reported few problems as the storm moved through.

‘GREAT EXERCISE’

There was no reported damage, Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said Tuesday morning, after spending the night at the center in Lewis.

“There were 88 people without power in Minerva. It was a great exercise in preparation. We erred on the side of public safety. If we hadn’t geared up for this and something happened, we’d have been unprepared.”

The Franklin County Emergency Services Dispatch Center in Malone fielded just five storm-related calls Monday, and County Manager Thomas Leitz lifted the state of emergency at noon Tuesday.

The handful of emergency calls involved reports of two trees down in Fort Covington and Westville.

Clinton County saw a few scattered power outages, including one in Saranac.

“I can say that we are aware of very little damage,” Clinton County Office of Emergency Services Director Eric Day said. “Only a few minor power outages were reported, and NYSEG did a great job with getting power restored.”

NOT AS FORECAST

“It was the mega storm that wasn’t so mega,” said National Weather Service observer David Werner of Malone. “We didn’t get much locally.”

He said as of 7 a.m. Tuesday, the area had .15 inches of rain, bringing the October total to 4.07 inches, which is slightly above the average of 3.90 inches with one day still to go in the month.

Malone has seen 31.09 inches of rain since Jan. 1 and the average should be 32.77 inches, Werner said.

“We’re pretty close to normal,” he said, adding that the maximum wind gust he recorded overnight was 40 mph “which isn’t anything like the 50 to 60 we were told to expect.”

GENERATOR OUT

Jaquish said the Essex County Emergency Operations Center in Lewis lost power for about an hour Monday night, as a generator was brought online.

“There was a generator blip. We switched back to NYSEG. The 911 center stayed up.”

Both the Emergency Operations Center and the 911 center are located in the Essex County Public Safety Building at Lewis, which is next to the new County Jail.

“We went over on generator because we were going to lose utility power; there was a problem with a transfer switch at the jail. The generator failed. We need a second generator.”

The original plans for the Public Safety Building included a second generator, but it was removed to save money when the facility was constructed.

New York State Electric & Gas, which covers northern Essex County, was not down, only the transfer switch at their location, so they switched back to utility power.

The problem appears to have been a fuel pump in the generator, Jaquish said, and they’re working on repairing it.

There was an emergency shelter at the Jay Town Hall in AuSable Forks, but no one used it, he said.

The Essex County Emergency Operations Center, which was staffed with public safety and utility representatives overnight, shut down at noon Tuesday, Jaquish said.

WATCH FOR REMNANTS

Clinton County residents still need to be mindful of possible lingering storm damage for the next few days, Day said.

“Clinton County did not receive a direct hit from Sandy but did experience sustained winds of 20 to 25 mph with gusts significantly higher in some areas,” he said in a news release.

“Local utilities are reporting minimal power outages in the Clinton County area. NYSEG reports 84 residents in the Town of Saranac, in the Standish Road area, are without power. Crews are working to restore the power.”

Day said no public water-supply plants lost power as a result of the storm, assuring safe water for residents.

MOST SCHOOLS OPEN

All Clinton County public schools were in operation Tuesday, Day said, along with Plattsburgh State and Clinton Community College.

Many schools in Essex and Franklin counties were on a two-hour opening delay Tuesday, but Schroon Lake canceled all classes. The cancellation was made Monday before the storm arrived, based on the best information at the time, school officials said.

Crown Point Central School opened late Tuesday morning after a two-hour delay, and everyone there is grateful the storm missed the area, Superintendent Shari Brannock said.

“We opened with a delay; we tried to hedge to see what would happen. We’re thankful it missed us. We’re all here and school is in session.”

PROBLEMS ELSEWHERE

National Grid said more than 18,000 customers were without power overnight, down to 3,300 by Tuesday afternoon, most in Schenectady, Syracuse, Oswego, Potsdam, and Watertown area Tuesday.

New York State Electric & Gas had only a few local customers down as of early Tuesday, and they were soon back in operation.

Western Saratoga County and central Hamilton County were the hardest hit in the region. The storm surged water onto land from Lake George, but no damage was reported. Most of the storm damage was in New York City, Long Island and the New Jersey shore.

TRANSPORTATION

Amtrak canceled its Adirondack passenger train from Albany to Montreal but said service will resume today.

The Franklin County Public Transportation bus service was expected to resume at noon Tuesday, but the Essex County Public Transportation Service is closed until Thursday.

Salmon River Central School was on a two-hour delay after receiving an early morning report from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police about possible low-lying wires, said District Superintendent Jane Collins.

“We delayed for two hours to give us time to assess that situation before we put our buses out there with students on them.”

LOOKING AHEAD

Regional airports reported maximum-wind gusts to the National Weather Service in Burlington Monday with Plattsburgh International Airport seeing 38 mph at 11:35 p.m., the Adirondack Regional Airport at Lake Clear with 44 mp at 6:35 p.m., and Massena International Airport with 48 mph at 12:12 a.m. Tuesday.

An observation station at Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid had a maximum-wind gust reading of 35 mph at 11:01 p.m. Monday.

The North Country was expected to see winds between 35 mph and 45 mph most of Tuesday with the strength diminishing to 20 to 30 mph between 6 and 7 p.m., said Kimberly McMahon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“As far as Wednesday, in the remnants of the storm formerly known as Sandy, the winds will be switching more northwardly from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio to Ontario and eventually into Quebec,” she said Tuesday.

“There is going to be a greater chance of rain, about 70 percent Wednesday and 60 percent Thursday, but it will be scattered showers,” she said. “There may still be a chance of a moderate rain, but that won’t last.

“It will be mostly showers with a ½-inch or ¾ of an inch of rain,” she said. “Unfortunately, it won’t dry up until Friday night and into Saturday.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:

lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com