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Snow due to blanket region

Snow due to blanket region

Capital Region residents were bracing for another winter storm on Thursday night, a week after the o

Capital Region residents were bracing for another winter storm on Thursday night, a week after the onset of the disastrous ice storm for which the cleanup is still ongoing.

On Thursday, President Bush declared Capital Region counties eligible for federal disaster relief to help with the costs of the ice storm.

And Gov. David Paterson announced that food stamp recipients who lost food because of power disruptions from the ice storm may get replacement food stamps.

As for the new storm, which is forecast to begin late this morning, expect no ice but from 6 to 12 inches of snow today, according to Neil Stuart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

Stuart said the snowfall should end by tonight.

Temperatures will also drop quickly from Thursday’s mid-to-upper 30s down into the mid-to-upper 20s.

Some area school districts were already planning to dismiss students early today in anticipation of the heavy snow this afternoon.

Stuart said today’s storm is coming out of the west. Saturday will be a cloudy day with temperatures in the 20s but no snowfall.

But on Sunday, the first official day of winter, another storm is expected to arrive in the region bringing snow or a “wintry mix,” Stuart said.

He said there is a potential for “moderate to heavy snowfall” starting during the day on Sunday and ending that evening.

The temperatures in the 20s predicted for today and Saturday are below normal for this time of the year. The average high temperature in Albany is 35 for today.

The new storms come just as utility companies serving the region had finally repaired almost all downed lines and restored power to nearly 100 percent of the more than 300,000 customers who lost power after last week’s ice storm. Patrick Stella, spokesman for National Grid, said crews were on schedule Thursday to restore power to the last of the customers affected by the ice storm.

But the phone company, Verizon, still had a backlog of work, according to company spokesman John Bonomo. He said there were 2,400 repair assignments still outstanding late Thursday in an area from the mid-Hudson north into the Adirondacks.

“There is still much work to do,” Bonomo said. He said Verizon had crews from across the state working on the repairs.

Not all of the repair reports were dead phone lines, he said. Some were for static on the line or for wires hanging low in a customer’s yard.

Bush announced the emergency declaration for 16 counties in upstate New York on Thursday and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the area hit by the severe winter ice storm that began on Dec. 11.

This action authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts that are aimed at alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency.

The declaration also will provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures in the counties of Albany, Chenango, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster and Washington, said a statement from FEMA.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding, the statement said.

“Today’s announcement by FEMA is the first step toward needed assistance for areas of New York struggling to recover from last week’s storm,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “It is critical that funding follows this declaration to help put the 16 counties hardest hit on a path toward recovery.”

Paterson said the state will provide replacement food stamp benefits to lower income New Yorkers in the 16 counties where food was spoiled by power outages after last week’s storm, described by a National Grid spokesman as the worst ice storm to hit the region in the past decade.

New Yorkers who think they may be eligible for replacement food stamp benefits should contact their county or city social services department, The Associated Press reported.

The state Consumer Protection Board was also alerting residents in the Capital Region who suspect they were victims of price gouging during the ice storm to report this to the Consumer Protection Board as soon as possible. The agency’s toll-free hot line is 1-800-697-1220 or go on the Internet to www.nysconsumer.gov.

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