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Winter storm closes schools and more

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MASSENA - While it is customary for winter storms to close schools, the storm that hit the north country Thursday night and continued through the day Friday also closed government offices, libraries and more.

In Potsdam, while the town office remained open, the village office closed shortly after 1 p.m., with the library being closed all day.

Library Director Pat Musante said she attempted to make it to the library this morning, but with the road condition, she turned around and headed back home.

“I tried,” she said, adding there is also “a bug” circulating among library staff that has left them short-staffed over the past few days.

In Massena, both town and village offices closed at noon, with the public library there also closing at noon.

The list of school closings included all 18 districts in the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES district, as well as Salmon River Central School, WIC offices in Canton and Massena, Head Start programs from around the county and even two of the county’s colleges with SUNY Canton closing for the day and SUNY Potsdam closing at 3 p.m.

Parishville-Hopkinton Superintendent Darin P. Saiff said Thursday’s storm was the first time this school year that his district has used a snow day.

“I usually speak with our head of transportation who works with each of the town’s road supervisors,” Mr. Saiff said. “This morning though was a little bit different, because we had a winter storm warning versus a storm watch and with the magnitude of it, it made sense to close down.”

Mr. Saiff said his concern wasn’t necessarily the amount of snow that had fallen, but the combination of snow and wind, which often makes for dangerous driving conditions.

“We were concerned mostly with drifts and visibility,” he said. “The towns and state do a great job of keeping the roads clean, but with a storm like this it’s hard to keep up.”

Potsdam Highway Superintendent John A. Keleher his crews began work early Friday morning.

“We came in at 3:30 this morning and there was roughly two to three inches on the ground,” he said, adding that as of 12:30 p.m. his crews were making their third our fourth trip around town.

“This storm is a little different from the last one,” he said. “You can actually see.”

Mr. Keleher said the town had seven plows on the road, plus a pickup.

“There hasn’t been any one time where there was more than a couple inches on the roads,” he said. “Our next challenge will likely come on Monday when it warms up and we get some rain or freezing rain.”

Massena Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad said he’s got crews working 24 hours a day, noting his crews began attacking the storm at 5 a.m.

“We’re keeping up with it,” he said. “We’ve got it under control.”

Mr. Fayad said for his crews, navigating the streets in a village is made difficult by the amount of traffic they’re forced to deal with.

“We have these trucks with plows on them and with cars parked on the street and oncoming traffic, it’s difficult to maneuver them with cars parked on the street.

Morristown Highway Superintendent Michael L. Bogart said, “Everything has been plowed about three or four times [Friday].” He expected to be out again throughout the night and into Saturday.

“It’s just a constant plow, plow, plow,” Mr. Bogart said.

Ogdensburg Director of Public Works Kit W. Smith said in the city they’re attacking the storm with a fleet of 12 plows that went out last Thursday night will be out around the clock until the storm in over and everything is cleaned up.

“They’ll be running about 12-hour shifts around the clock until everything is cleaned up, and it will get cleaned up so long as we keep up with it,” he said.

“It is what we expected,” Ogdensburg Director of Public Works Kit W. Smith said Friday. “It’s no more than the usual north country storm, we just haven’t had one in the past couple of years.”

Mr. Smith also asks the public to be diligent and watch out for plows, while also using caution even though the roads may appear to be clear.

“Even though the roads are clear, it can lull drivers into a false sense of security, per say,” he said. “The high winds can create a hazard. Even if we keep the plows out and 80 percent of the road is clear the wind gusts can send the snow drifts across the road.”

One motorist not worried about the conditions was Doug Kerr of Louisville, who was out shopping at Price Chopper with his wife Friday afternoon.

“Seeing how the storm wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, we decided to come out and stock up,” he said. “When you live in the north country, even the worst storms are mild compared to what we got in the past.”

Mr. Kerr said he was originally planning to go shopping on Thursday, but that didn’t happen.

“We were going to come out last night before the storm hit, but then we got lazy and decided to stay home,” he said.

Peter Banacos, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt. said that as of late Friday afternoon 6.5 inches of snow had fallen in Ogdensburg, with seven inches reported in Malone. Mr. Banacos said no snowfall totals were available for Massena or Potsdam.

He did say, however, that residents in St. Lawrence County could expect the storm to subside early Saturday morning, “likely around daybreak,” he said.

Amanda Purcell contributed to this report.

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