CAPITAL REGION -- A major winter storm dropped as much as two feet of snow in portions of the Capital Region on Sunday and Monday, forcing schools to close, local governments to institute emergency parking and road restrictions and causing residents to pull out their snowblowers and shovels for one of the deepest early-December snowfalls in the region's history.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday morning declared a state of emergency in seven counties: Schenectady, Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia, Greene and Ulster counties.
The declaration covered the counties hardest hit by the two-phase storm that began Sunday afternoon and was expected to stretch late into the Monday night. By Monday morning, nearly all of Schenectady, Saratoga and Albany counties received at least a foot of snow; parts of Glenville, Malta and Latham registered 20 inches of snow accumulation, according to the National Weather Service.
Delanson saw the region's highest total as of Monday afternoon -- 27 inches, according to the weather service.
State and local offices, as well as many private businesses and organizations, were also closed Monday and students in Capital Region schools got an extra day added to their Thanksgiving break. Many district officials announced Monday's snow day on Sunday night, as the snow began to pile up.
The state of emergency declaration from the governor accompanied the activation of 300 members of the National Guard to assist in snow removal and cleanup operations, the governor's office said.
"Our state is no stranger to this type of extreme winter weather and these additional measures will be critical in our efforts to keep all New Yorkers safe throughout the remainder of this storm," Cuomo said at a press conference in Kingston.
Local National Guard troops were expected to be mobilized Monday night and Tuesday, tasked with offering assistance to local authorities, Col. Rich Goldenberg of the National Guard said. He said the troops can assist with traffic control, debris removal and other emergency response.
Schenectady County and other local governments also issued their own state of emergency. The declaration restricts all traffic, except for essential services of fire, police, healthcare and hospital services. The Schenectady County declaration began at noon Monday and is to run until 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Albany International Airport was operating Monday but numerous flights were canceled or delayed: At least 10 flights were canceled Monday morning and another 12 flights were delayed, according to a statement from the airport around 10 a.m. By early evening Monday, some flights appeared to be on schedule while others faced delays.
An Amtrak train traveling east from Niagara Falls on its way to Penn Station in New York collided with a snowplow on the track near Scotia, according to Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams. No injuries were reported and the train never lost power despite being delayed for nearly an hour, Abrams said. State troopers responded to over 740 storm-related crashes across the state as of midday Monday, Cuomo said in a release.
Snow was expected to continue to pile up in the Capital Region into the early morning hours Tuesday, making the storm one of the region's biggest December snowstorms in history, according to forecasts and records.
"Continue to look for periods of snow that will be heavy at times this afternoon and into tonight," Ray O'Keefe, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said shortly before noon Monday.
At that time, O'Keefe said the region should expect another five to 10 inches of snowfall before it lets up in the overnight hours; the additional snow would bring the region's tally to as high as two feet or more in some places, if it happens. Snow totals as high as 20 inches in Glenville and Latham and 18 inches in Schenectady had already been reported Monday morning -- the highest in the region. As of late Monday evening, the snow was light.
O'Keefe said the snowfall recorded at the Albany airport as of Monday morning ranked the storm as the 10th highest precipitation for a December storm. But the storm was likely to move up the ranks with more snow falling throughout the day. The snowfall totals also had the potential to lift the storm into the top 10, or at least top 20, for most snowfall accumulation on record, O'Keefe said. A storm in January 2013 that brought just over 20 inches of snow to the Albany airport ranked 10th for the most snowfall on record.
In Schenectady, residents continued to dig out across the city on Monday.
Stockade resident Sherrie Lyons used the opportunity to go cross-country skiing on Union Street.
“I ski whenever there’s snow,” Lyons said. “This is great — I don’t even have to get into my car.”
While main streets across the city were generally clear by mid-day, conditions of side streets were variable.
Behind Lyons, a passerby stopped to help a motorist who became stuck at the corner of Union Street and Washington Avenue. A second car became briefly stuck moments later.
Numerous other motorists could be seen stuck in the city’s Bellevue neighborhood, including Third Avenue and Hendrix Street.
Many school districts in the region have now used two snow days, with an early snow day getting called in many districts after a morning snowstorm clogged up traffic last month. But it's still too early to know whether districts will be forced into schedule changes if more snow days are called. In recent years, the state Education Department granted districts greater flexibility to count hours to meet the state minimum instruction time mandate.
"When we put together the calendar, we have a pretty substantial cushion," Schenectady school Superintendent Larry Spring said. "I would begin to be concerned if we were still in January and had used four snow days, then we would do some calculations [to ensure the schedule was on track to meeting requirements]."
Spring said a new forecasting platform developed by atmospheric scientists and meteorologists at the University at Albany came in use Sunday as he watched the forecast developed while staying in touch with other superintendents and city and county officials to determine whether to cancel school. Spring said he also considers whether neighboring districts will cancel school, because so many Schenectady teachers and staff live in other districts. If those districts are canceled much of the staff will stay home with their children. Ultimately, Spring declared the snow day Sunday night.
"I was on it a lot last night," Spring said of the new forecasting platform.
More on the storm:
- Capital Region snowfall totals, including 20 inches recorded in Clifton Park, Malta and East Glenville
- Where are all the snow plows? Find Schenectady's here
- Season's first major snowstorm prompts closures, cancellations