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Thousands without power as storm snarls traffic, closes schools and offices

Troy, covered in ice and snow, as seen from Mayor Patrick Madden's office window
Patrick Madden
City of Troy
Troy, covered in ice and snow, as seen from Mayor Patrick Madden's office window, February 4, 2022.

Freezing rain and sleet made for a hazardous morning commute Friday across upstate New York. Colder weather is settling in and people are being urged to stay off the roads as utilities repair downed lines.

Driving is a challenge today with sleet and freezing rain continuing in many areas. The mixed bag of weather resulted in several closings and delays. Some schools opted to go remote while others declared snow days, with governors in Massachusetts and New York urging motorists to stay home if possible.

Saratoga Springs and Kingston are among many cities across New York to declare a state of emergency, advising against all unnecessary travel until further notice. Central Hudson reported Friday afternoon that more than 50,000 of its customers were without power including roughly 46,000 in Ulster County. The company said it had restored power to about 6,000 homes and businesses. Ulster County has declared a state of emergency and is activating warming centers in Kingston, New Paltz and Saugerties.

“We're seeing quite a bit of ice accumulate on trees on roadways on electrical facilities," said John Maserjian, a spokesperson for Central Hudson. "And this is causing primarily trees to fall onto power lines. And that's causing the majority of these outages. But we are in communication with the municipalities and the counties that are most affected and are working hand in hand with highway departments to clear roads so that we can restore power easily and also to allow for traffic flow, but it is icy out there. So we do encourage folks to stay at home if they don't have to travel. This is an ongoing weather event. The ice and snow is expected to continue throughout today. So we very well may see additional outages even as we restore power to those who are affected. And again, we expect we expect to be working into Saturday and then possibly Sunday.”

There has been an accumulation of a quarter inch of ice in the Hudson Valley and another quarter inch is expected before the storm ends.

Snow emergencies triggered alternate parking rules in many localities.

“Our crews have been out working the streets since about 10 o'clock last night," said Troy Mayor Patrick Madden Friday morning. "And I drove through most of the city this morning, and I would say if you don't need to drive today, don't do it. It's not a day to run unnecessary errands and if you are out, if you go to work or you have other obligations, just be careful be and be particularly careful on the hills. This is an interesting mix of precipitation with the rain and the sleet and shortly it's going to turn to snow and we should be picking up an inch or so of snow before it all winds down. But the streets are slick despite efforts to be out there. They are salted, but it's it's cold to the point where salt is not terribly effective. If you can put your car in the driveway, as we go through with the plows please go ahead and do that.”

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy is also urging residents to park off-street: the city's Municipal Parking Garage on Broadway is offering free parking until 9 a.m. Monday.

Albany's Department of General Services Deputy Commissioner Frank Zeoli says there won't be a snow emergency called for the capital city and removal operations are in full swing.

“Because of the temperature you know, it's been raining pretty much, 40 degrees yesterday," Zeoli said. "And then you could feel it get down you know as the evening went on and the rain came in so it had been raining for a good portion of yesterday. So most of last night into you know the evening into the into the overnight it was freezing rain. OK, so you know our priority there is going to be salt, you know there's not any really any snow to push so it's more salt. So we were out salting the roads, making multiple passes throughout the overnight and into this morning. At this point, we're looking in the next few hours for it to turn some snow. I don't know how much we're going to get a couple of inches really is all that's expected. But it'll turn the snow within we'll have to start pushing some of the snow. But as long as the temperatures stay where they are, we need to, you know, we need to concentrate on the salt,” Zeoli said.

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories in eastern New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and northern Connecticut were set to expire at 8 p.m. Friday.

The Homeless and Travelers Aid Society in Albany is calling a Code Blue Extreme alert effective Friday through Sunday with temperatures are forecast to plummet below zero over the next few nights.

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.