Snowfall sets record for Dec. 9

The season’s first snowstorm produced more snow than expected Wednesday, closing schools, clogging r
Hannah Simms, 17, front, and Alex Allwin, 17, both of Schenectady, sled down a hill in Central Park with their friend Lucas Tripoli, 16, behind them on Wednesday.
Hannah Simms, 17, front, and Alex Allwin, 17, both of Schenectady, sled down a hill in Central Park with their friend Lucas Tripoli, 16, behind them on Wednesday.

The season’s first snowstorm produced more snow than expected Wednesday, closing schools, clogging roads and claiming one life.

“It came at the worst time of the day,” said Commissioner Carl Olsen of Schenectady’s General Services Department.

Forecasts said Schenectady and most parts of the Capital Region would get between 2 and 5 inches of snow, but 8 to 10 inches fell in many places.

The rate of snowfall was heaviest between 6 and 9 a.m. — morning rush hour. Peter Van Keuren of the state Department of Transportation said the rapidly accumulating snow recovered the Northway and other state roadways soon after they were plowed.

Schools across the region were closed by the heavy morning snow that let up around noon, turned to light rain and then stopped. Temperatures that had bottomed out in the mid-20s rose to the mid-30s by late afternoon.

No more heavy snow is forecast through the weekend but colder air, some snow flurries and gusty winds up to 30 mph are expected today through Friday, said Kimberly Sutkevich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

Wednesday’s snowfall set a record for Dec. 9, with 7.3 inches measured at the service’s University at Albany weather station, beating the 6.3 inches of snow of Dec. 9, 1995.

However, snowfalls of 10 inches in Albany County, 9.6 inches in East Glenville in Schenectady County and 10 inches in Jonesville in Saratoga County were reported to the National Weather Service.

Fatal Accident

James Shea, 68, a part-time employee of the Northumberland Highway Department, was killed at 8:48 a.m. Wednesday when the town snowplow truck in which he was riding as a plow operator was hit by a northbound Canadian Pacific Railway freight train at a rail crossing on Saunders Drive behind the highway department building in the hamlet of Gansevoort.

Shea didn’t need to work after he retired, but he took a job on the town highway crew because he loved the camaraderie, according to town officials.

Now his family, his fellow volunteer firefighters and town co-workers are dealing with his tragic death.

Shea was serving as the “wingman,” operating the plow’s side wing, while Kerry Garnsey drove, said town Supervisor Willard Peck.

Garnsey is a 30-year veteran of the town highway department, Peck said.

Shea was pronounced dead at the scene, and Garnsey, 53, was taken to Glens Falls Hospital with head and chest injuries, said Lt. Bill Seibert of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office.

Garnsey is in fair condition, according to a hospital spokesman.

The Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the cause of the crash. Seibert said he didn’t think the small crossing is protected with gates.

Shea had been a Gansevoort volunteer firefighter for about 10 years and his fellow volunteers responded to the crash scene Wednesday morning.

“It’s very difficult when you have a small-town accident scene,” Peck said. “Here’s one of their men who’s fallen.”

Shea leaves behind his wife, Linda. Peck said the town’s residents were supporting Shea’s wife and each other. “When tragedy hits, people come together,” Peck said.

Canadian Pacific Railway spokesman Michel Spenard said the train did not derail and the locomotive engineer and conductor on board were uninjured.

The 41-car mixed freight train was on its way from Saratoga Springs to Rouses Point near the New York-Quebec border.

The train was delayed as the sheriff’s office and CP Rail police investigated what happened. Gansevoort and South Glens Falls fire departments and the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Department of Transportation also helped at the scene.

Airport Remains Open

Albany International Airport remained open all of Wednesday but reported about a dozen cancellations of incoming flights by midday and a similar number of departure cancellations. Many other flights faced delays.

Airport spokesman Doug Myers said 7.9 inches of snow had fallen by 11:30 a.m. Myers said part of the problem was that hub airports that connect to Albany, such as Newark Liberty and Atlanta, get backed up because of the number of flights being affected by the storm.

Many of the cancellations also impacted travel to or from destinations in the Northeast that were also affected by the storm.

All flight service should be back to normal schedules by this morning.

Saratoga Springs

The city of Saratoga Springs declared a snow emergency that went into effect at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said the 12-hour snow emergency requires people who park on the street to move their cars to a plowed area or off the city streets so the DPW can plow the roadways.

Those who don’t move their cars will have them towed away.

“I was surprised,” Scirocco said about the amount of snow that fell Wednesday morning. “Every piece of equipment we own was out.”

He said snow removal started at 5 a.m. and finished for the day at 4 p.m. The trucks will be back out at 5 a.m. today to clean up some side streets, Scirocco said.


Sections of Amsterdam were still unplowed late Wednesday afternoon as various pieces of machinery broke down throughout the day, according to Ray Halgas, superintendent of the Department of Public Works.

Four trucks went out at 3:15 a.m. as the snow started to fall, Halgas said, and three more went out with the change of shift at 7 a.m.

The department’s largest truck, which plows the main arterials of the city, kept overheating and was taken out of service by Wednesday afternoon.

Another vehicle had a flat tire while plowing. By 3:30 p.m., Halgas said there were still sections of the city that hadn’t been touched as crews concentrated on keeping the main arterial and hills clear.

No major incidents or accidents were reported in the city, however. An Amsterdam Fire Department engine did get stuck in the snow at the Five Corners intersection and had to be hauled out by another fire truck.

Battalion Chief Richard DePasquale said it happens from time to time, so crews knew how to handle the situation.

Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department responded to about 20 weather-related incidents during the day Wednesday, Undersheriff Jeffery T. Smith said. None of the accidents resulted in serious injuries. Smith said there were cars in ditches, disabled vehicles, a jackknifed tractor-trailer and backups in traffic, but nothing considered serious.

“We’ve certainly handled worse,” he said.

Anticipating icy conditions later in the day, county Board of Supervisors Chairman John B. Thomas issued an order early Wednesday closing down all county office buildings.

Fulton County

Despite 9 to 10 inches of snow dropping around the county, Fulton County Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey said there were few accidents. “I was surprised,” he said, tallying the handful of crashes, all minor.

Lorey attributed the favorable development to the closing of schools, a move that eliminated considerable traffic from area roads.

Categories: Schenectady County

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