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Ice storm puts St. Lawrence County in state of emergency

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David H. Barney Jr. was happy just to live on the lucky side of the flashing red light in downtown Hermon.

“The power’s all out on the other side of the light,” he said.

Mr. Barney was one of many people outside clearing his driveway Sunday morning, as the ice storm continued to freeze up St. Lawrence County with downed trees, branches and power lines, but unlike several others, his house had power.

National Grid reported just over 6,000 customers without power throughout the county, including half the town of Hermon, by late Sunday.

“My dad works for the town, and he’s been out plowing,” Mr. Barney said. “He’s worked probably over 40 hours this weekend.”

Plows, emergency vehicles and fleets of utility and tree service trucks were some of the only vehicles on the roads over the weekend because of the driving ban from 5 p.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Although it lifted the driving restrictions, the county is still in a state of emergency and people still need to be careful while driving and be alert for utility workers and trucks on the side of the road, said Keith J. Zimmerman, interim county director of emergency services.

“The worst is certainly over,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “The worst was from Saturday night and into Sunday morning.”

Although the worst of the storm may be over, many people across the county are still in the dark and without heat.

“We’ve got about 1,600 crews that have been shuffled all over the state,” said Glynn L. Matthews, lead customer representative for National Grid. “During outages like this, the ones we work on first are the outages that affect the largest population.”

Mr. Matthews said the teams will work first on the few transition power lines that are out before making their way to the less populated areas or single houses without power.

Along with calling up mutual aid from the Syracuse region and other counties, National Grid contracted workers from out-of-state companies to assist in the efforts to restore the county, including ABC Professional Tree Service workers and trucks from Rhode Island.

Ken M. Smith and Dustin R. Dion are employees of ABC Professional Tree Service who made a 12-hour drive to get here Sunday.

“We just got in today, and we’re on standby to help out with the cleanup,” Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Zimmerman said that while National Grid and contracted help have been pushing hard to complete restoration, the county has “benefited greatly from our volunteers at local fire departments and rescue squads.”

Seven cups of coffee and the adrenaline of 20 calls in 14 hours kept Thomas J. Conklin, assistant chief of the Gouverneur Fire Department, awake Sunday.

Mr. Conklin said the station of 60 volunteers usually averages just under one call per day, but this weekend it took more than 27 calls.

“It’s mostly down power lines or trees in the roadway,” he said. “We’ve been called out to places 15 to 20 miles away.”

Mr. Conklin said it has been the busiest department in the county this weekend, with several other stations offering mutual aid.

Mr. Zimmerman said that while it has been an above-average weekend, the calls that emergency services have taken haven’t been overwhelming since they’ve had extra staff on board throughout the storm.

Hermon Volunteer Fire Department Chief Christopher R. Stransky said the station has been open all weekend with crews trying to clear away ice and help people who don’t have power.

“We’ve gotten calls from people who are on oxygen and don’t have power to run their machines,” he said. “Our volunteers have been working all weekend. Every four hours or so, they’ll go home to check on their own families and make sure their generators are running.”

Mr. Zimmerman said county and state officials were discussing the possibility of putting up warming stations for people still without power.

County officials announcd late Sunday night they would be opening a warming center at 9 a.m. Monday at Gouveneur High School. They said power strips will be available for those in need of charging cell phones and other electronic necessities. The Salvation Army will be providing light snacks, and National Grid will provide dry ice and water starting at 2 p.m.

“It would be a place to come to warm up while their power is being restored,” he said.

Larry D. Hendrick and his wife, Debrah J., lost power in their DeKalb home about 9 p.m. Saturday and were still without power at 11 a.m. Sunday.

“We’ve got a wood stove, so we’ve been able to stay warm,” Mr. Hendrick said.

Tracey L. Woodrow owns the only convenience store and gas station in Hermon, Woody’s, 100 Russell Road, which she had been running on a generator all weekend. She said Saturday night she had a line of people waiting to use the gas pumps to fill cars and generators.

“We’ve been running smaller coolers and the gas pumps on the generator,” she said. “We are only open during the day, though, because the generator can’t support the large overhead lights.”

“The storm in 1998 was even worse,” said Paula J. Jordan, Hermon.

Ms. Jordan spent her Saturday afternoon in the dark, when her power went out, and she spent her Sunday morning outside shoveling her sidewalk and driveway.

“You just have to take it as it comes,” she said. “Shoveling goes a long way towards staying warm.”







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