Rare October snowstorm hints at winter to come

A rare autumn snowstorm that started Tuesday afternoon snarled rush hour traffic and caused some spo

A rare autumn snowstorm that started Tuesday afternoon snarled rush hour traffic and caused some spotty power outages, but it lost its punch Tuesday night in most parts of the Capital Region.

“It could have been a little worse,” said Hugh Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. “We lucked out. We dodged a bullet.”

Schoharie County, including Cobleskill with 9 inches, as well as Greene County, with as much as 14 inches, and the hill towns of Albany County, with 5 and 6 inches of snow, saw the most snow in the region.

Three inches of snow fell in Duanesburg in Schenectady County. Mostly rain — on average about 1.5 inches — fell Tuesday in Saratoga County and other parts of the region.

National Grid reported about 4,400 customers without power Tuesday night in its Eastern Region, which goes from the Mohawk Valley to Ticonderoga. Alberto Bianchetti, a spokesman for National Grid, said Caroga Lake, Berne and Duanesburg were some areas hit hard by tree limbs coming down on power lines.

The National Weather Service dropped its flood watch late Tuesday for much of the region. Johnson said the rain and snow will be pretty much over today, replaced with a mix of sun and clouds. The temperature will be about 40 degrees with gusty winds and the chance of light rain or snow showers.

“We are doing the same thing we do every year and, with the forecast, our schedule has been pushed up,” Rick Kietlinski, road maintenance supervisor for the Schenectady County Department of Public Works, said on Tuesday.

“We are not totally ready; we have half the fleet ready. Hopefully, the other half will be ready by the end of the day.”

It rained much of Tuesday and the snow began to mix with rain about 5 p.m. in some places in the Mohawk Valley and points southwest and in the higher elevations of the Adirondacks.

National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Frugis had said earlier Tuesday that the immediate Capital Region was expected to receive only 1 to 2 inches from this storm with the brunt of the nasty weather in higher elevations.

The state Department of Transportation had about 80 percent of its fleet ready.

“This is pretty early for a storm,” said DOT spokesman Peter Van Keuren. “We usually use the last part of September and mid-October to begin transitioning into winter weather mode. We look at the month of November to get wings and salt hoppers on the trucks, but we realize in the Northeast you have to be ready for anything.”

DOT had the equipment and trucks and salt needed to address the weather over the next 48 hours, he said. The western part of the region was expected to see more snow with the National Weather Service in Albany issuing a winter storm warning for Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie and western Schenectady and Albany counties until 8 a.m. today. A flood watch is also in effect until 8 a.m. today for Montgomery, Schoharie and western Schenectady and Albany counties.

Snowfall rates were expected to approach two inches an hour across the higher elevations of the Catskills and Adirondacks as temperatures dive into the mid-30s.

Besides the snow, the storm brought winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts between 45 and 55 mph. Combined with the snow, this could lead to poor visibility and downed trees and power lines.

Frugis said it’s somewhat rare to see a storm this early and the first significant snowfall is usually not until mid-November.

Route 10 in the town of Richmondville was closed at about 1 p.m. Tuesday because of icy conditions. “It’s closed and is very icy. Vehicles are sliding down the hill,” said a dispatcher with the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department.

NYSEG advised that in the event of storm damage, customers should stay away from downed power lines and said even lines that appear dead can be deadly.

The company reminded customers to stay out of flooded basements because energized wiring or outlets below the water line may pose a hazard.

NYSEG was also monitoring the rapidly changing weather conditions and preparing to respond to power interruptions that could result from heavy, wet snow and high winds expected overnight.

Saratoga County Public Works Commissioner Joe Ritchey said the storm came early and the department was busy preparing trucks for plowing. “We are in the process of doing it now. We have salt and sand,” Ritchey said. “It’s October, we are still finishing up some of our other projects.”

Snow accumulation of more than an inch is rare in October, said meteorologist Frugis, adding that the area received 2 inches of snow on Oct. 28, 1952.

Thursday will be sunny with highs in the mid-40s and lows in the upper 20s. Friday will be partly sunny with highs in the mid-50s and lows in the low 30s, according to the National Weather Service.

Categories: Schenectady County

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