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Winter Storm Niko Is Here

With schools closed and many workers encouraged not to travel, much of the Northeast is digging out from the first major storm of the winter.

A winter storm skirting the New York/New England coastline is here reminding us what winter is like. It's a time of closed schools and grounded flights:   Salt trucks and plows are out in force trying to roadways clear of accumulating snow.  Hudson Valley Weather CEO Alex Marra says it's been an impressive morning from Albany south.   "Reports of thundersnow across the region this morning, some lightning detected on radar. Albany was under a band that created 4-inch per hour snowfall rates. That band has since collapsed out into the Hudson Valley where it's now producing 1 to 3 inches per hour snowfall rates. The most widespread significant snowfall the Albany to Hudson Valley, lower Hudson Valley corridor has had in the last two seasons combined."

Although officials say Albany International Airport is open and operating, by 9 a.m. 11 departing flights had been canceled and 12 arriving lights had been canceled, with travelers advised to check with the airlines before heading out to the airport. In many municipalities, snow emergencies are already in effect.

Connecticut state police have answered hundreds of calls and responded to dozens of accidents, according to Governor Daniel Malloy:   "We urge people to stay indoors, and don't get into your car unless you absolutely have to. Our highways are open, and will remain open, we anticipate. That is always subject to change, but we're also attempting to coordinate all of our activities with our neighboring states of New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts."

Malloy says more than 630 state plowtrucks and 250 contractors are working to clear roads. Massachusetts' emergency management bunker in Framingham is online, with Governor Charlie Baker scheduled to provide an update this hour. Baker also urged people to stay off the roads to allow plows and sanders to do their work.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the storm is having an impact on Albany.   "We are getting phone calls about slippery roads, and our response is that 'we're doing the best that we can,' but as long as it's snowing those roads are going to be really slippery, and so people should use caution and stay home. It is going to be pretty dicey for awhile. We have declared a snow emergency, so that will take effect at 8 p.m. tonight. People will have to park on the even side of the street."

Sheehan doesn't expect city services like trash collection to be impacted; however, an open house that was scheduled tonight at city hall to help recruit new firefighters has been postponed.

Meantime, Hudson Valley Weather’s Marra says the El Nino influence on our weather pattern is apparently over, good news for the Northeast, which is experiencing a precipitation deficit. Marra says while recent rainstorms helped to chip away at the deficit, this storm and one in the not-too-distant future should revitalize the dwindling water table.   "We went into this winter in some cases with 10- to 16-inch rainfall deficit. We came off of an almost snowless winter last year, which is where a lot of the watersheds get their runoff off, and then we had a pretty dry summer to boot."

Marra expects the storm to significantly taper off by 3 p.m.   "And then, from that point on, some really cold air rushes in behind it, and then I turn to the potential for another storm developing late Sunday night into Monday."

Official recognition of the Noreaster comes via The Weather Channel, which came up with the " Winter Storm Niko " moniker.  "Always an interesting point of discussion amongst weather fanatics, the whole naming of storms. Some people are a huge fan of it, a lot of people disagree with it. Obviously, the reason that hurricanes receive names and tropical storms, is for reference purposes, and it does serve a purpose. You know I mean it's a lot easier to refer to a hurricane by its name and remember it by its name.  So I do feel that the Weather Channel is obviously trying to go after that same sense when it comes to winter storms to make it easier to reference back."

Coastal warnings are up, with high winds, flooding and possible power outages expected. Temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing and remain there through Friday.

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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