February 9, 2013

Hello Nemo

Skiers rejoice, cancellationsabound in North Country

By KIM SMITH DEDAM and DENISE A. RAYMO Press-Republican and RUTHANN ALEXANDER, Contributing Writer

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Cars slid off snowy roads, schools closed, events were canceled and, in the Adirondacks, skiers cheered.

Winter Storm Nemo blew in and kept blowing on Friday.

“We have 6 inches of snow so far,” Wilmington’s Highway Superintendent Bill Skufca said Friday morning, “and 12 inches over a 24-hour period isn’t a challenge to us.

The National Weather Service upped snowfall rates as two weather systems collided to form Nemo about 11 a.m. Friday. 

What looked like an eye began to form in the coiled clouds off the Outer Banks.

Instead of expecting an inch of snow per hour, the Weather Service said some areas in the North Country could see twice as much accumulate in the same amount of time.


Skufca said the town crews would run Wilmington’s plow trucks nonstop. There aren’t extra drivers to work a rotation; five plow drivers and four trucks clear 56 lane-miles of road.

“You actually have to double that because we clear both sides,” he said.

“Trucks in Wilmington have a three-hour route and then start over. What we try to do is knock off around 11 p.m. and come back in for 4 a.m.,” the highway superintendent advised.

Towns often do a lot of clearing for the county and state roads, especially in Essex County, he said.

“We take care of Route 86 from Jay to Wilmington and Route 31 to the Toll House on Whiteface. St. Armand’s picks up from there. We’re just going to work until it stops snowing.”

Though this was the biggest storm his crew had to cope with this winter, Skufca said, “it’s not requiring a lot of extra work for us.

“(And) it’s just as expensive to go and clean up a storm that gives us 6 inches of snow in 12 hours as it is to clear 14 inches in the same amount of time,” he said. 

In Malone on Friday, Franklin County Emergency Services staff and Town of Malone officials continued their vigil on the Salmon River off Lower Park Street.

Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost said the heavy snowfall “will add weight to the ice, but we don’t know what it will do” to the situation.

He said the floodwater was at the edge of the roadway about 9:30 a.m. but not washing over the street.

They are into the third week of dealing with the effects of a massive ice jam that forced 4-foot-deep floodwater into the street and led to the evacuation of several homes in the 300 block of Lower Park.

A second state of emergency was declared Monday by Town Supervisor Howard Maneely, and he street remains closed to thru traffic.


Otherwise, Friday morning under Nemo’s influence brought snow but no reports of car crashes or other snow-related incidents.

“It’s been quiet, but they’ve just notified us that we’ve gone from a storm advisory to a warning now,” Provost said mid morning.

And they were bracing for the predicted afternoon and evening snowfall, which the National Weather Service said could bring anywhere from 14 to 18 inches to the region.

Salmon River Central School canceled classes for the day as did school districts Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and, in fact, around the region.

North Country Community College classes weren’t held at its campuses, located in Saranac Lake, Malone and Ticonderoga. And in Plattsburgh, SUNY Plattsburgh canceled classes as of noon but athletic events still played on.


A host of postponements and cancellations were reported throughout the day for Friday and Saturday throughout the region, but at Whiteface Mountain, 10 inches of new snow before noon brought a different reaction.

“I love Nemo,” Whiteface posted on its Facebook page. Whiteface managers announced their glee over the fine, cold powder in updates, and skiers echoed the sentiment.

Snowstorms are welcome by many up there.

This one was the second real snow of winter 2012-13, after a storm dropped 10 or so inches after Christmas. 

Much of that had melted in area towns and villages, leaving frozen brown yards and hills looking very un-winterlike.

Even Skufca, despite the heavy work for his Wilmington Highway Department crew, didn’t mind the incoming swipe of winter weather.

“It is a great thing. We need it for the economy,” he said. “That is what winters in the North Country are all about.”


Ken Aaron, communications director at Paul Smith’s College, took a vacation “powder” day and headed to Wilmington to hit the Whiteface trails.

“It’s a great day today. It’s coming down hard. When I left my house in Saranac Lake this morning, it wasn’t doing much. They had 6 or 8 inches already when I got here. And it’s still snowing pretty good.”

Like many avid skiers, Aaron kept an eye on the storm’s progress.

“I saw the weather forecast Wednesday and put in for a powder day. It was well worth it. Hoyt’s High (trail) is open,” he said. “It’s a tricky ski, but it’s a lot of fun. Your tax dollars well spent.”

As to crowd conditions, Aaron said the mountain was busy.

“There’s a decent crowd here today. The Empire State Winter Games are on, and there are people here for that, some here with their families.”


In Clinton County, a predicted 4 to 8 inches of snow Friday gave way to heavier, deeper accumulation.

Clinton County Director of Emergency Services Eric Day said weather contributed to some motor vehicle accidents, some with injuries. 

A car slid off the road into a ditch on Tom Miller Road in the Town of Plattsburgh near the Pizza Palace shortly before 2:30 p.m. but there were no injuries.

There were still many on the roads who probably didn’t need to be out in the storm, and that type of traffic results in accidents because the roads are slick,” Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said late Friday afternoon. “When there’s poor road conditions, the number of accidents increase.”

A woman who was in a two-car accident on Durkee Street in the city just before 2 p.m. complained of back pain and was taken to CVPH Medical Center, City Police said. Her name was not available Friday evening.

Drivers need to take the time to clear snow from their vehicles before driving, Racicot said.

“People don’t clean their cars off well, so their view can be obstructed. Or when a car is completely covered with snow, it kind of blends into the background of all the snow.

“It’s really important to clean your car off in its entirety.”

Town of Dannemora Highway Superintendent Mark Siskavich said Friday afternoon that snow and slush made roads quite slippery. 

The towns of Willsboro, Lewis and Westport in Essex County reported no problems handling the storm.

“It’s been going well, knock on wood,” said Lewis Highway Superintendent Eldred Hutchins on Friday afternoon. “There have been no breakdowns. 

“If people would just drive slowly, there won’t be any problems.”


In the Town of Ellenburg in Clinton County, the roads were not as bad as Highway Superintendent Bradley Wright thought they would be. 

“I’m sure we’ll be chasing snow for four or five days,” he said. “I try to do my best, and so do my men.”

Ellenburg was getting an inch of snow an hour at about 4 p.m., he said.

A major challenge for snow-removal crews, Wright said, is to keep the equipment working. When equipment breaks, his workers fall behind, so they affect repairs as swiftly as possible. 


Citizens of the City of Plattsburgh will be helping with snow removal as Nemo moves away.

While they are not required to shovel the sidewalks in front of their homes during the storm, they are given 24 hours after the storm to do so, Public Works Superintendent Arsene “Mike” Brodi said.

He said people need to take care not to overexert whil moving pushing snow, as back injuries and even heart attacks can result. 

Town of Ellenburg Clerk Thelma LaBombard said she is careful not to lift too much snow, and that a friend clears her driveway for her. 

Making snow removal more challenging on the streets of the City of Plattsburgh is vehicles parked on where they shouldn’t be. 

“That’s why we put the snow (parking) ban in,” Public Works Superintendent Arsene “Mike” Brodi said. “We have to keep plowing.” 

—Contributing Writer Alvin Reiner and Staff Writer Felicia Krieg assisted with this report.