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Lewis County offices closed, meeting canceled as lake-effect storm rages

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LOWVILLE — Emergency personnel started fielding calls Monday afternoon in Lewis County, as snow began falling. Weather forecasts predict 5 feet to fall by this afternoon.

Tow trucks were out in force, according to Jo Ann Groff, of Terry Groff Towing, Copenhagen.

“We started about 3 o’clock yesterday,” Mrs. Groff said Tuesday afternoon.

Her drivers, she said, had not returned to the garage.

“It’s been nonstop. They are plucking one after another,” she said.

For safety reasons, two men were traveling with each tow truck.

“They would have the windows down to see and the passenger could help direct the driver,” Mrs. Groff said.

Undersheriff James M. Monnat was at the scene of a vehicle pileup on Route 12 at the high bridge, just outside the village of Lowville, about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday.

By noon, he said, emergency calls had slowed somewhat since the morning.

“There haven’t been a lot of accidents, just people off the road or stuck in the road,” he said.

“It’s not so much the snowfall, but the wind. There is zero visibility,” he said. “If people just stay put, we’ll be OK.”

Plow truck drivers in the town of Denmark were kept off the roads because of the dangerous conditions.

Drivers remained at the highway garage in case of an emergency call to clear roads if necessary.

“We’re just waiting for the wind to die down so we can see,” Denmark town Highway Superintendent Patrick F. Mahar said.

Lewis County Legislative Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, said he received a phone call Monday evening from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office.

The conference call included representatives from counties across the north country, as well as state Homeland Security Commissioner Jerome M. Hauer, state Department of Transportation Director Robert L. Sack and state Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison Jr.

“They brought us up to speed on conditions across the state. They said we had declared a state of emergency and if we need anything, they are here for us,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Patrick A. Murphy, 52nd adjutant general of New York state, informed representatives the National Guard was on standby, if needed.

County offices were closed Tuesday. The Board of Legislators meeting was rescheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday. A decision as to whether offices will be closed today was to be made this morning.

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