Getting a half-foot of snow doesn’t sound like much for an area that averages more than 60 inches a year.
But on the heels of a winter where a paltry 23.3 inches fell, a storm dumping between 6 inches and 12 inches of snow seems like a crusher. And that’s exactly what’s expected for the Capital Region from sunrise to sunset today.
The National Weather Service in Albany is predicting the massive storm system that battered the Midwest with blizzard conditions and delivered damaging downpours in the South will bring the area’s first significant snow accumulation of the winter. Meteorologist Brian Montgomery said the snow that started falling Wednesday evening could continue until around 7 p.m. today, dropping nearly 2 inches of snow per hour at its peak.
The snowfall is expected to be largest accumulation since a storm system left about 9 inches between Leap Day and March this year. Prior to that snow, the only significant accumulation was during a Halloween storm in 2011.
The less than 2 feet recorded in last winter in the Capital Region was the third lowest on record. Some areas to the west of Albany could realize roughly half last year’s total accumulation by the time today’s storm ends.
“This will be the first significant event we’ve seen in a while,” Montgomery said.
This is true especially considering the area has only seen 1.2 inches of snow so far this season. This is only a fraction of the average snowfall of nearly 14 inches the Capital Region usually receives before New Year’s Day.
Wet snow could change over into sleet at times today, and could be coupled with wind gusts of up to 30 mph. The combination could drop power lines and trees, which worried Glenville Highway Superintendent Tom Coppola as he prepared his road crews for a solid 24 hours of plowing.
Coppola was still monitoring the storm’s path Wednesday evening and was hoping it would veer off-course, so the town wouldn’t get hit as hard. But after an easy winter last year, he suspected his luck for dodging serious snow events had run out.
“I hope this is the first and last,” he said. “But I don’t think we’ll get as lucky as we did last year.”
State Department of Transportation crews began preparing for the storm on Christmas and were ready to spring into action Wednesday evening. Spokesman Bryan Viggiani said the agency’s regional force of 176 trucks is more than prepared to keep the roughly 5.300 lane-miles of state highways cleared between Essex County to the north and Greene County to the south.
“These guys are basically champing at the bit to get out there,” he said. “They’ll work around the clock during the storm and then again afterward.”
Others got a jump also. Officials in Schenectady ordered residents to move all vehicles from the 16 posted “priority streets” once 3 inches of snow accumulates; they also warned a failure to move vehicles could result in parking tickets or even a tow.
Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said crews are well-prepared to clear the 405 miles of roads they maintain. In addition, the Albany County Office for the Aging has contacted providers of home delivered meals to ensure the elderly have enough meals in advance.
“Despite the fact that it is a holiday week, we are fully staffed and prepared,” he said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo activated the State Emergency Operations Center Wednesday evening. He also directed a letter to local utilities, warning they will be held accountable for their performance during and after this storm.
Doug Myers, a spokesman for the Albany International Airport, warned of forthcoming cancellations. As of late Wednesday afternoon, 10 arriving flights and six departing flights were scratched.
The snowy forecast predictably brought business to some area hardware stores. Curtis Lumber in Ballston had robust sales Wednesday, with customers looking to replenish their stocks of snow shovels and ice melt — two items they didn’t have to use much over the past year.
“It’s been steady,” said Dan Nelson, and assistant manager.