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Storm Drops Near-Record Snow On Parts Of Northeast

The National Weather Service recorded 22.9 inches of snow at Albany International Airport.
Dave Lucas
The National Weather Service recorded 22.9 inches of snow at Albany International Airport.

The Capital Region is digging out from a huge snowstorm that prompted officials to declare emergencies.

The National Weather Service recorded 22.9 inches of snow at Albany International Airport. Public buildings closed and those who braved the roads often found themselves spinning out today.

"We declared a state of emergency 6 o'clock in the morning," said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy. "We were up all night. It's something we don't like to do, but it's kind of weird. It's like you know, we have half the workforce working at home. Do you close the buildings but then you have so people working so there's a whole logistical thing that goes on behind the scenes to deal with union contracts and a variety of other stuff that you have to address - but we got walloped, 15 to 25 inches and most parts of the Capital Region and some areas got over 2 feet, like the town of Guilderland and in other places. So the hill towns typically you get more snow than we do here. So it's challenging."

"Winter Storm Gail" surprised most area meteorologists, ranking in the top five of all December snowstorms since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1884.

"We have 28 large plows assessing the storm continuous and the roads being cleared," McCoy said. "And it obviously looks like we're getting over the hump. But we still have a lot more to do. And so I do want to say to anyone, you know, if you need an area that you're not seeing, be patient, it's going to take time for us to get there. We're trying to do the mass roads first and trying to stay up on the smaller route roads. But again, this one's been more difficult than anything else."

The city of Albany was particularly hard hit to the extent that many streets were impassable as late as noontime. Mayor Kathy Sheehan says there is only so much equipment can do, and Albany has all of its equipment out cleaning up after Gail.

"Most of us thought we were going to wake up, find some fluffy snow and clear roads," Sheehan said. "And what we found was a very, very serious storm that was still swirling and was still dangerous. The County Executive and I as quickly as we could, did what we could to get the word out to declare a state of emergency, to send the message that people should not be out on the roads, that it was not safe. And we watched as what was supposed to have ended by 7 a.m. was coming down at two to three inches an hour at 7:30, 8 o'clock, 8:30, 9 o'clock. So we're still out there moving it. It's going to take time, we need for people to be patient. We started the storm with 67 pieces of equipment, we've lost a few pieces of equipment, because of the heaviness of the snow, the amount of snow."

Sheehan adds dump trucks and front loaders are being pressed into snow removal service. She has asked the state for assistance with that, but realizes Albany may to have to wait as the city of Binghamton is dealing with nearly double the amount of snow that fell here.

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in 18 counties.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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