CAPITAL REGION -- Winter doesn't officially start for five more weeks. Even meteorological winter doesn't start until Dec. 1.
Don't tell that to the people and businesses across the Capital Region who spent the Ides of November preparing for the first snowstorm of the season, a mid-November visit from mid-winter, in terms of both temperatures and snow.
The storm that started Thursday evening was forecast to bring 8 to 12 inches of snow to the Capital Region by mid-morning Friday, with a chance that sleet would mix in in the pre-dawn hours. Accumulation forecasts increased throughout the day Thursday, as the chance for sleet -- which would reduce total snow accumulation -- fell, the National Weather Service said.
The weather service issued a winter storm warning for the entire region. School closings and delays Friday morning are likely.
In anticipation of power outages, National Grid said it was increasing its overnight staffing and will have line crews report for duty earlier than normal Friday morning. New York State Electric & Gas also said it was pre-positioning crews.
It's early in the season for such a large storm, though snow is common in November.
"A lot of times, we don't see a storm this big until the end of November or in December," said Brian Frugis, a Weather Service meteorologist in Albany.
"Normally, we get 1 or 2 inches here and there in November, so to be expecting 5 to 8, it's early," said Keith Manz, Saratoga County's commissioner of public works.
Manz said the county public works department's main priority Thursday was getting ready, and the county will have all 23 of its plow/salt trucks on the road overnight. He said crews were looking forward to the season -- and the overtime.
"We've been preparing for weeks, as far as getting our plows on and getting our trucks ready -- storing up salt," Manz said. "Everyone is anxious to get out and start plowing snow. We try to get out there between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., because if it's rush hour and you're plowing in Halfmoon and Clifton Park, that's not good."
Hardware stores and winter equipment dealers were busy with people making last-minute purchases of shovels, salt -- and even snowblowers.
Thursday was busy for both new snowblower sales and the repair shop at All-Seasons Equipment in Glenville, owner Duane Leach said.
We have an active (repair) shop, and the shop right now can't handle everyone who walks in," he said. "It's quite an active day here ... New sales have been very active. We've sold quite a bit of new snowblowers."
The Code Blue shelter that opened with 37 beds last week in the Soul Saving Station Church in downtown Saratoga Springs anticipated needing its overflow shelter at the New England Congregational/Presbyterian Church on Circular Street to house the people expected to seek overnight shelter.
"Last night (Wednesday), we had all 37 beds at the shelter filled, so we do anticipate needing the overflow," said Rosemary Riedhammer, director of development and marketing at Shelters of Saratoga, which manages the Code Blue program.
Saratoga Code Blue will be open every night through April 1, Riedhammer said, rather than only on the coldest and snowiest nights, as some other regional shelters are.
"It provides stability for our guests. They don't have to find alternate places to stay," she said.
The storm could make Friday morning's commute treacherous -- the second morning of icy travel this week.
The state Department of Transportation and the state Thruway Authority issued a statewide advisory Wednesday reminding drivers to be aware of and respectful of snowplows.
“Snowplows are huge, heavy vehicles with wide blind spots," said DOT acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas, in a prepared statement. "Our practices are not intended to slow motorists down, but to maximize safety. We ask motorists to drive with patience and an abundance of caution during winter weather events.”
State Department of Transportation Region One spokesman Bryan Viggiani said motorists in general need to slow down in snowy weather.
"Plan to leave for work early or to be late for work," he said. "Stay off the phone, and leave room for good reaction times."
At Albany International Airport in Colonie, airport personnel were preparing for the storm and expected to keep the airport open, but flight delays and cancellations were expected. Several airlines have announced policies that will allow people flying to or from storm-impacted airports -- including Albany -- to rebook their flights at no extra charge.
The town Glenville announced it would be enforcing its winter prohibition on on-street parking, and more communities are expected to declare snow emergencies.