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Saratoga, Schenectady storm responses continue

Saratoga, Schenectady storm responses continue

Hot, humid weather conducive to storms, National Weather Service says
Saratoga, Schenectady storm responses continue
Reece Freeman of Foothills Tree Services clears branches from a home on Revere Lane in Saratoga Springs Wednesday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

CAPITAL REGION -- The Capital Region has now seen three consecutive nights of severe thunderstorms and winds, the kind that bring down trees and large limbs and leaves crews cleaning up for days.

Tuesday night it was northeastern Saratoga County that bore the brunt of the damage, after Schenectady County and parts of southern Saratoga County experienced damaging weather on both Sunday and Monday evenings.

While nearly 1,000 utility customers were without power between Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls at mid-day Wednesday, Tuesday's storms didn't pack quite the punch of those earlier in the week, which left thousands without power and prompted a major utility response.

"Last night we did have an active response, fire departments responding to trees down in Moreau and Gansevoort," Carl Zeilman, Saratoga County's emergency management director, said on Wednesday. "We were very fortunate last night to have just minor outages and trees down, but the fire, EMS and law enforcement were active."

The series of storms that slammed through the two counties has been stressful for property owners who have seen trees crash down, but also for the utility crews responding to the dozens of power outages caused by trees on wires and high winds.

What's been unusual isn't so much that there are thunderstorms in summer as the number of storms occurring close together, and the fact that the storms hit the same areas, especially parts of Schenectady County, said National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella.

"We had customers restored and then the next storm came through and knocked them out again," Stella said.

That sort of situation happened in Scotia and Glenville, among other places. While injuries from the storms were few, there were numerous reports of property damage and falling trees striking cars, and torrential rains falling -- though sometimes in very limited areas.

"Half the town got very little and half the town got a microburst that was just astonishing," said Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. "It certainly did a lot of damage in parts of town, Scotia and Alplaus and Woodhaven. We're working on storm debris cleanup now."

In the city of Schenectady, clean-up efforts will continue for the next several weeks.

The city’s Office of General Services announced on Wednesday it will expand collection of fallen tree branches left at the curb for the next two weeks to assist residents in the aftermath. 

Residents are encouraged to leave limbs and branches at the curb over the next few days for pickup. 

Standard pickup rules for the Office of General Services state that branches left at the curb must be less than three inches in diameter and trimmed to 4 feet or less in length. They must also be tied in a bundle.

In a relaxation of the rules, branches do not have to be tied together in bundles, but items must be left at the curb, and crews will not enter residents’ backyards to retrieve materials.

For additional information, call 518-382-5144.

National Grid has gone into a storm response mode in which crews are working longer hours, Stella said. In addition to about 500 employees and local contractors based in the Capital Region, Stella said about 40 National Grid employees from central New York have been brought in to help with the restoration and cleanup work.

"A typical summer cycle is a couple of warm days and then a storm passes through, but this week has been a little intense," Stella said. "That's probably because of the high heat. Our employees have been working pretty much around the clock for the last couple of days."

Operating in storm mode is something crews prepare for, Stella said. "Will drill for these kinds of things. It's the business that we're in," he said. "It's been a series of small storms, but we're operating like it has really been one large storm."

The storm mode response was to continue at least through the rest of Wednesday, when there was the potential for more evening storms. "The weather will determine what we have to do tomorrow," Stella said on Wednesday. "I think our crews are looking forward to a change in the weather."

As an indication of severe the storms were, Stella said crews have had to replace 10 or 15 street poles --a  more time-consuming process that simply repairing lines that have been brought down by limbs or trees. "That's a large number for a small storm," he said.

The National Weather Service reported that Albany has had 12 90-degree days so far this summer -- compared to an average of 10. And that heat, when combined with humid air, is a key factor behind major thunderstorm activity.

"The common explanation is that it's July," said National Weather Service meteorologist Ray O'Keefe. "If you asked me a week ago what were the chances of thunderstorms hitting Schenectady three days in a row, I wouldn't have said very high. It's kind of the pattern we're in, a warm, humid pattern. It's conducive to thunderstorms."

The numerous severe thunderstorm warnings the weather service issued ahead of this week's storms predicted there would be winds as high as 60 mph, and based on the amount of tree damage, O'Keefe said there were probably wind speeds that high. Actual wind speed measurements during a storm are rare, he said.

Cooler temperatures and lower humidity are predicted over the next few days, reducing the risk of sudden storms.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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