Dozens of vehicles careened into ditches Sunday evening across the Capital Region as a nor’easter layered roads with heavy slush.
National Weather Service Meteorologist John Quinlan watched the storm move into the area, first dumping rain, then snow.
“The system wrapped cold air around the edge of it,” he said. “That was enough to turn rain into some really impressive, half-dollar-sized snowflakes.”
Most of the area didn’t see large accumulations. According to National Weather Service totals late Sunday evening, the town of Jefferson in Schoharie County saw nearly 5 inches of snow, but most other places across the region didn’t break 2 inches.
Quinlan said the potent combination of rain, snow and sudden freezing temperatures created treacherous driving conditions.
Police and fire radio frequencies were abuzz in the late afternoon and early evening with reports of crashes and spinouts across the region, but the situation was worst in Schoharie County.
“We had a real mess down here,” said Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond.
Starting around 4:30 p.m., he said, rain turned to snow and calls started rolling in.
“Our dispatchers were just buried by calls,” he said.
More than 15 vehicles lost traction and ended up in the ditch along Interstate 88 alone, he said, and there were more along Route 30 and on other roads. Desmond described how a tour bus of vacationers on their way to Howe Caverns lost traction on Sagendorf Corners Road and ended up sideways, blocking the road and a majority of one ditch.
“They were from New York City,” he said. “They obviously weren’t used to the Schoharie County winter driving.”
He also helped a tractor-trailer driver who was misled by his GPS onto a narrow country road and up a steep icy hill.
“He was trying to get to Walmart,” Desmond said. “He couldn’t make it up the hill. We had to help him get turned around.”
As of Sunday evening, Desmond said only one person in his county was injured in an accident. It was along Interstate 88, and the injury was not life-threatening, he said.
Aside form car accidents, Desmond said the wet snow was piling up on trees and power lines, snapping off the smaller branches and threatening some cables. National Grid officials could not be reached for comment late Sunday, but the company’s website listed only an outage affecting nearly 70 customers north of Middleburgh.
Farther north, roads were not as dangerous. In Schenectady County, Sheriff Dominic Dagostino said there were just a few weather-related car accidents.
The snow was expected to end by late Sunday or early today and give way to clear skies and sharply colder temperatures.