Storm over, cleanup begins

An ice storm blitzed the Capital Region this morning, leaving many communities without power and for
Ice- and snow-covered trees form an arch over motorists on Fehr Avenue in Schenectady on Friday.
Ice- and snow-covered trees form an arch over motorists on Fehr Avenue in Schenectady on Friday.

An ice storm blitzed the Capital Region this morning, leaving many communities without power and forcing hardships on people for several more days to come, officials said.

Patrick Stella of National Grid said the ice storm left more than 200,000 customers in the eastern section of New York without power.

“It’s a major weather event with lots of downed trees. It is mainly trees bringing down power lines,” Stella said.

More than 165,000 National Grid customers in the Capital Region remain without power tonight, with the utility offering no specific estimates of when power would be restored, only to say it could take several days or longer to restore all service.

New York State Electric & Gas is reporting 32,000 customers in the dark in its Mechanicville Division, which includes Saratoga, Washington, Rensselaer and Columbia counties.

The Daily Gazette was without electricity until about 4:30 p.m., bringing down the Web site.

Winter storm essentials

  • For’s constantly updated weather page, click HERE.
  • For a searchable list of school and business cancellations from throughout the region, click HERE.
  • For real-time traffic information from the state Department of Transportation, click HERE.
  • To check on arrivals and departures at Albany International Airport, click HERE.
  • For real-time updates on power outages in areas served by National Grid, click HERE.
  • For real-time updates on power outages in areas served by New York State Electric & Gas, click HERE.
  • National Grid has more than 600 tree and line crews working to restore power, bringing in help from its Syracuse and Buffalo sections and tapping assistance from as far away as Michigan.

    “The damage is quite extensive and we estimate full power will be restored after several days,” Stella said.

    The ice storm, which begin in earnest after midnight Thursday, led to the cancellation of schools throughout the Capital Region and to Schenectady County, Clifton Park and several towns in Albany County declaring emergencies today.

    The counties of Schenectady, Albany and Rensselaer were especially hard hit, according to National Grid. At one point, more than 147,000 customers were without power in the Capital Region with more than 15,000 customers in the city of Schenectady and more than 6,000 each without power in Glenville, Niskayuna and Rotterdam.

    The American Red Cross has or will open shelters throughout the area:

    Albany County

    Ravena Grange, Route 143, Coeymans Hollow

    Colonie Village Hall, 2 Thunder Road

    Voorheesville High School, 432 New Salem Road, Voorheesville (to open by 9 p.m.)

    Schenectady County

    Scotia-Glenville High School, 1 Tartan Way, Route 147, Scotia

    Union College Memorial Fieldhouse, Schenectady (to open by 9 p.m.)

    Saratoga County

    Senior Center, 6 Clifton Common Court, Clifton Park

    Community Center, 19 Palmer Street, Stillwater

    Judicial Building, corner of Route 236 and Harris Road, Halfmoon

    Another shelter is expected to open shortly in Schoharie. Information on shelters are also posted on the Red Cross web site at

    Schenectady County officials said warming stations have also been established in Elston Hall at Schenectady County Community College, the McChesney Room at the central branch of Schenectady Coutny Public Library and at suburban and rural firehouses outside of the city, with other sites being explored. Niskayuna residents in need of shelter are asked to call the town police department’s non-emergency phone number at 374-3159.

    Ellis Hospital spokeswoman Donna Evans said the hospital saw some weather-related injuries but nothing critical.

    City of Schenectady’s Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen said early today he was so busy dealing with the storm’s aftereffects that he had not been home in 36 hours. He was working with city crews to find downed power lines to report to National Grid.

    Stella said people should not touch downed lines and should report them to National Grid by calling 800-867-5222.

    Meteorologist Bob Kilpatrick of the National Weather Service in Albany said the ice storm dumped 2 inches of liquid precipitation – rain, sleet and snow – on the region during the storm. The rain increased after midnight and froze when temperatures stayed below freezing. By 1 a.m. Friday, the weather service recorded a half-inch of ice in the area. By storm’s end, it reached three-quarters of an inch.

    “It was a very nasty winter storm. The damage was universal across the region,” Kilpatrick said.

    A half-inch of ice “amounts to a lot of weight,” Kilpatrick said, and is enough to break limbs and snap power lines. In some areas, where the soil is still soft, it is enough to uproot trees, he said.

    Meteorologist Brian Frugis said the right conditions occurred to create the ice storm, which he called a rare event.

    “Rain combined with extended cold temperatures created it,” he said.

    The last ice storm to cripple the area was about a decade ago, Kilpatrick said. That storm left parts of northern New York and southern Canada without power for weeks.

    Kilpatrick said temperatures will plummet today into the mid-teens and to zero in higher elevations. The weather may cause slick road conditions but no further problems.

    “The rain is already frozen,” he said.

    William Peats of the State Emergency Management Office said the most important task is to restore power to people. “The big thing now is getting the power back on, and they’re out there doing that,” Peats said.

    John Nett, emergency management coordinator for the town of Stillwater, said the town is without power. Friday morning, about 20 people stopped into an American Red Cross emergency shelter set up in the Stillwater Community Center to warm up.

    “We have received some cots, some blankets through the Red Cross,” Nett said.

    Paul Lent, director of emergency services for Saratoga County, said the county suffered storm-related problems, “but all in all we’re not as bad off as our neighboring counties.

    He said today was too early to guess how many people might seek out shelter tonight when the temperature dipped.

    “This is one of those things that you anticipate a surge and come to find out that most of the people find shelter with friends, family, that kind of thing,” Lent said.

    Earlier in the day, Albany International Airport cancelled flights for several hours and the Northway closed temporarily due to several accidents.

    The National Weather Service said no additional accumulating precipitation is expected, but conditions continue to be very dangerous. Weather service forecasters said northwest winds of 15 to 25 mph may result in additional damage to trees and power lines.

    Otherwise, tonight will be partly cloudy and cold, with lows in the mid-teens. Saturday will be mostly sunny but continued cold, with highs only in the mid-20s, but Sunday will be warmer, with partly sunny skies and highs in the mid-30s.

    Categories: Schenectady County

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