Schenectady County

Costly, snowy winter wears out its welcome

Snow totals for the Capital Region are 15 inches above normal this winter and highway departments an
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Snow totals for the Capital Region are 15 inches above normal this winter and highway departments and plow crews in the area say they’ve have had enough.

“Here we are in the middle of January and the guys are weary already,” said Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, commissioner of the Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works.

“They are ready for a break,” Scirocco said. “This is like [the winters] I remember when I was a kid.”

Highway superintendents and city road commissioners are reporting steep overtime costs, especially for the unusually high number of weekend snow and ice storms that have blown through the region since early December.

Scirocco said for the snowstorm of Jan. 10-11, alone, the overtime bill came to $30,000.

Carl A. Olsen, Schenectady’s general services commissioner, said Monday that bad weather has become an every day concern.

Olsen said an important factor in this winter’s snow and ice removal is the comparatively high cost of salt. He said the city has spent more than $300,000 on salt alone this winter.

Greenfield Highway Superintendent Walter Barss, whose Saratoga County town includes nearly 100 miles of town roads, said he has gone through about 2,000 tons of salt this winter. He said the town is paying $61 per ton for salt this winter, an increase of $18 per ton from last winter.

“It just seems like there are storms every weekend,” Barss said. “It takes its toll in overtime.”

“This seems to me like an old-time winter,” Barss said. “Every few days you get a storm.”

Evan Heller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said Monday that 39.1 inches of snow have fallen at the Albany International Airport so far this winter. He said this is 15 inches above the normal snowfall for the region by this date in January.

“It’s certainly on the high end,” Heller said. He said, however, the snowfall total is probably not a record.

Last winter was also a snowy one, with 38 inches of snow by Jan. 19.

Heller said he doesn’t see a warming trend — a January thaw — anywhere on the horizon. He said the cold air mass out of the north flowing into the region will continue in the same general pattern in the weeks to come.

But a break in the snow pattern that road crews have been praying for is expected this week.

Heller said about an inch of snow may fall overnight but then little snow is predicted through Saturday.

“It doesn’t look too bad right now,” Heller said about the week’s weather. He said there could be more snow coming Sunday into Monday but it was too far in the future to predict accurately.

Temperatures will drop into the mid 20s today after reaching 28 degrees on Monday and will fall into the low 20s by Wednesday. Things will warm up again by Thursday with highs in the 30s, Heller said.

But another blast of Arctic air will be coming in late Saturday and Sunday with the mercury dropping to below zero by Monday morning.

A major problem developing in Saratoga Springs is where to put the snow. Scirocco said his road crews try to push back the snow banks so the side streets don’t get too narrow.

In Saratoga Springs, as in Schenectady, the Public Works Department also has to use front-end loaders and dump trucks to remove the snow from the downtown areas.

Olsen said the snow removal crews work at night in Schenectady, removing snow to city-owned snow dumping areas off Craig Street and Foster Avenue. In Saratoga Springs, the snow is piled onto city-owned land on Weibel Avenue.

“They [the storms] may be a nuisance but they are do-able,” Olsen said.

“I would take ten snow storms to one ice storm [like the one of Dec. 11-12),” he said. That storm cut power to thousands of residents in the Capital Region, downing power lines, trees and tree limbs.

When will it end?

“Probably somewhere in April,” a resigned Olsen said.

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