Skiers loved the nearly 2-inch-per-hour snow that dumped on the Capital Region Friday from about noon until late night.
While commuters inched gingerly over the slippery roads, Karen Doyle kept a smile on her face.
With at least a half-foot of fresh powder on the ground, Doyle, the manager at the Maple Valley Ski Ridge in Rotterdam, watched as a robust crowd took to the slopes.
“The snow is absolutely gorgeous,” she said early Friday evening. “Of course, we are a ski area and we do love the snow.”
Some areas of the Capital Region were blanketed with more than a foot of snow, which slowed the evening commute to a crawl and grounded nearly two-thirds of the flights at Albany International Airport. Authorities also responded to scores of vehicle crashes on the major interstates.
The storm was the first of three expected to hit the area and leave up to 15 inches before Christmas. Temperatures in the low 20s are expected this weekend.
“Probably with the snow on the ground now, we’ll have a white Christmas,” said Ray O’Keefe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.
O’Keefe said Friday’s storm was typical for December, which saw around 30 inches last year. He said the storm was small, but fed by moisture from the southeast.
“It’s a compact storm, it’s fairly short-lived, but it has a lot of moisture to work with,” he said.
The result was about an inch of snowfall per hour from when the storm began around noon until it began to taper off later in the evening. The weather service kept a winter storm warning in effect until 1 a.m. today.
The new snow didn’t help the ongoing cleanup effort in the towns worst hit by last week’s ice storm. In Niskayuna, highway crews were only able to remove about a third of the more than 30,000 cubic yards of debris left by the storm.
Town Highway Superintendent Frank Gavin said his plow crews are now trying to navigate around the piles of debris left at the curbs. Fortunately, he said, the snow didn’t seem to be bringing down any new trees or branches.
“It’s not too bad,” he said. “The snow is light and it came rather quickly.”
The snowstorm also filled up the drop-in shelter at the City Mission in Schenectady. Executive Director Mike Saccocio anticipated all of the 65 beds at the men’s shelter would be filled Friday, and workers were beginning to lay down mats to accommodate extra people. All nine of the apartments for women and children are filled, he said.
“There’s always a surge when you get a blast of winter,” he said. “But fortunately, we’re a bit battle-tested after last week’s storm, which really helped us ready for winter weather.”
At the airport, a Cleveland-bound Continental Express flight was delayed for several hours after its landing gear and nose became lodged in a snowbank on the apron of a runway. Spokesman Doug Myers said the pilot was taxiing the plane when he came too close to a large pile of snow cleared from the runway.
Rather than risk damage to the plane, the pilot called for help. Myers said it took about an hour for crews to dig it out.
“They don’t have reverse gear, you know,” he said.
While passengers waited, Myers hand-delivered 50 slices of pizza as the plane prepared for take-off. He said the snack was the least he could do for the stranded passengers.
Meanwhile, about two-thirds of the 77 inbound and 77 outbound flights were canceled. Myers said the cancellations could cause some issues, because many weekend flights are already booked with holiday travelers.
“It may be difficult for people to find seats,” he said.
Travel on area roads was marred by a number of fender-benders and vehicles off the road. State police spokeswoman Trooper Maureen Tuffey said the first inch of snow caused a rash of accidents on Interstate 787, but there were no serious injuries.
“We had numerous accidents,” she said. “Nothing that was serious, but numerous accidents.”
State police also responded to a jackknifed tractor-trailer near Exit 25A on the Thruway, which shut down the eastbound lane around 2 p.m. for about two hours.
In Montgomery County, authorities shut the northbound lane of Route 30 in Amsterdam after several tractor-trailers had difficulty negotiating hills. Area rescue agencies also responded to vehicles off the road and a jackknifed rig at the intersection of Fort Hunter Road and Route 30A.
State police in Saratoga County also responded to dozens of motorists who slid off the Northway after driving too fast for the snowy conditions. The Saratoga County Sheriff's Department reported a number of cars off snow-covered roads in Malta, Milton, Ballston and Clifton Park.
In Saratoga Springs, a snow emergency went into effect at 3 p.m. Friday, meaning all vehicles parked on city streets must be moved to plowed areas every 12 hours. If the vehicles remain parked on city streets longer than 12 hours, they are at risk of being towed.
“People have been pretty smart about it,” city police Sgt. Sean Briscoe said. “They are staying off the roads.