Long storm keeps plows busy. Click HERE.
By the numbers
Snow totals for selected communities:
South Berne 27”
Saratoga Springs 13”
Philip Brown got up early Friday morning and hit the streets of Amsterdam with a shovel.
“Early is where the money is,” he said, hacking away at a packed berm of dirty snow thrown up by a night of passing plows. “People need to get to work.”
A nor’easter swept up the East Coast on Thursday and overnight into Friday, dropping more than a foot of snow over the Capital Region. The powder piled up heavy on rooftops and socked in parked cars in cocoons of white.
Friday morning, the streets of Amsterdam looked Arctic, full of people walking behind snowblowers bundled in girthy, potato-colored Carhartt body suits.
In the midst of it all, Brown shoveled away in a hoodie and tennis shoes.
“I’m from Oklahoma,” he said, “We don’t deal with this kind of snow there.”
The 22-year-old makes some entrepreneurial money on the side shoveling out driveways and sidewalks for $10 a shot. He worked a little faster than usual Friday. After most snowstorms, he goes directly to a flower shop on Guy Park Avenue, shoveling out between the cars, clearing the entrances, then getting out on the roof to remove ice jam hazards. All told, it’s an hour of work yielding $150 in gratitude.
“That feeds my 4-year-old daughter,” he said, “but someone got there before me today. That will take me three hours to make back.”
Despite the setback, it’s been a good year for Brown’s little snow business. The most recent storm pushed this winter past average snowfall tallies.
According to National Weather Service Albany meteorologist Steve DiRienzo, rough estimates Friday morning at Albany International Airport put the season an inch past the 59-inch winter average.
“And we still have some winter left,” he said.
While this winter officially piled more than the usual snow along Capital Region curbs, DiRienzo hesitated to call accumulations unusual. What is unusual is how the snow was delivered: The recent nor’easter marks the fourth storm to smack the region with more than 10 inches of snow.
“There’s no place to put it,” said Richard Berger.
Berger risked a drive from Gloversville to Amsterdam on Friday morning to snowblow the sidewalks of the Crossroads Community Church. By 10 a.m., he had ice crystals glinting in his hair and beard and sweat running down his face.
“I’m committed to the faith,” he said, grinning, “and I’m retired, so I don’t have to be anywhere.”
But he ran into a problem. The church wall, sidewalk and street run parallel, with no space for the snow. Berger had the blower spout turned at the wall, leaving a streak of packed white at shoulder level. In the end, he had to blow it out onto the street and have a fellow volunteer plow up great piles yards away at the edges of parking lots.
Berger’s problem was played out on a larger stage at the Albany airport.
“Clearing our runways is the equivalent of plowing a lane of the Northway from Colonie to Saratoga,” said airport spokesman Doug Myers, “and our guys did that over and over again all night.”
He said the airport had to stay open in case of emergency landings, but starting Thursday afternoon, there wasn’t a whole lot of actual travel.
“Things just started to close down,” he said.
Weather delays and cancellations are a problem any time of year, but Myers said the storm had especially bad timing. Public school students across the state have next week off for winter break. It’s a popular time for family vacations, which means a whole lot of families waiting on airport benches for flights that never left the runway.
“The airlines were contacting passengers for the last week, offering to reschedule their flights in anticipation of the storm,” he said. “The ones that didn’t heed that warning might still be waiting.”
Flights were back on track by late Friday morning, Myers said, but mountains of snow remain piled up out of the way of passing aircraft.
A fleet of dump trucks will haul that snow away around the clock for two days, an option Berger didn’t have while doing his work in the Amsterdam church parking lot. While crews of trained professionals tackled the herculean task of clearing an airport, neighbors across the region helped each other dig out after the storm.
On DeCamp Avenue in Schenectady, Nicole Simms and her husband, John, worked to clear off their driveway and sidewalks, as well as the sidewalks of their neighbors. Simms said it was a part of being good neighbors and returning a favor.
“When they were younger, they had the snowblower when we couldn’t afford one, and they always helped us,” Nicole Simms said, working a shovel as her husband worked the snowblower, “so it’s just what you do.”
In her neighborhood near Union College, recent college graduate Melissa Lee cleared parking spaces for other drivers.
“I got back from work at 10:30 this morning,” she said, “and my neighbor helped me shovel out a parking space. I thought I should return the favor.”
In all the neighborly generosity, there was one guy who didn’t want help. On Guy Park Avenue in Amsterdam, Leo Swider insisted on freeing his own minivan from the snow. He worked methodically, raising each shovelful onto chest level snowbanks.
A few years ago, he stepped out of his house to clear a similar load of snow. He lifted two shovelfuls and felt something wrong deep in his chest.
“It felt like I was getting strangled,” he said, pausing to breathe in the cold air. “If there’s something wrong with your heart, you really know about it.”
Those two shovelfuls led to triple-bypass surgery. For the rest of that year, his neighbors shoveled him out. Now he’s recovered, and the strenuous task is a victory.
“Shoveling is a blessing,” he said.