Parking bans enacted before storm

By JAIME STUDD

Recorder News Staff

According to the calendar, spring officially arrives on Wednesday, but old man winter is not going out without a fight.

The National Weather Service in Albany began issuing winter storm warnings early Monday morning, covering the eastern Mohawk Valley, the Adirondacks, the entire Capital Region and into New England. Snow began blanketing the area around 8 p.m. on Monday and last through much of the day today.

"We're definitely going to be under the gun as we head into tonight into tomorrow," National Weather Service Meteorologist Kevin Lipton said on Monday.

Lipton predicted approximately four to eight inches of snow to fall through Monday night, with the Amsterdam area picking up another three to six inches during the daylight hours on Tuesday.

Hardest hit, Lipton said, will be part of the Adirondacks, where more than a foot of snow is likely.

Standard winter parking bans remain in affect for many of the area's municipalities. Most are not due to expire until April 1.

Amsterdam, however, was one of several area communities to declare a snow emergency in advance of Monday night's approaching storm.

According to the city website, a snow emergency may be declared by the mayor "when a snowfall of greater than 4 inches is forecasted." During a snow emergency, parking on all city streets is prohibited "for a specified period up to 36 hours after the end of the snowfall."

A list of city parking lots available for public use during a snow emergency accompanied the announcement on the city website.

The snow emergency declaration marks a recent shift in city policy, which had previously only required that residents observe alternate side of the street parking rules during a snow event.

The decision to declare a snow emergency hours before a single flake was due to fall was cause for some serious concern for at least one downtown business owner.

"Even if you have snow, if it's under 12 inches, it's not a big deal up here in the north," said Dan Weaver, owner of The Book Hound.

Weaver said he had e-mailed Thane with his concerns that prematurely declaring an emergency jeopardized downtown business.

Weaver offered the snow emergency declared a few weeks ago in advance of an approaching storm that brought much less snow than had been predicted as evidence.

"I had no customers and there was no snow," Weaver said.

Weaver said the parking restrictions associated with the snow emergency will affect his business and he does not believe the declaration is warranted for what could be a limited amount of snow.

"There's no reason people shouldn't be able to come down here and they won't be able to," said Weaver. "I don't think one should be called. I just don't think it's bad enough."

"There's a balance between the city's needs and the needs of the people and they're swinging to far towards taking care of the needs of the city," he added. "If you're going to have a snow emergency anytime it snows, why bother with alternate parking."

"Snow emergencies were only supposed to be for major storms."

Weaver noted that this is the second straight storm a snow emergency has been declared.

"It just doesn't make sense to me," he said. "I've lived here 35 years. This is a change. It just seems like it's going overboard."

Just down the street at The New Paris Shop, owner Philomena Iorio was somewhat less concerned over the potential loss of business, despite the fact that she is coming up on her busiest season -- prom.

Iorio said she hadn't even been aware that a snow emergency had been declared, and though she agreed that it appeared to have been done so prematurely, it was not something she considered to be a significant issue.

"I'm not worrying about it," Iorio said. "If it snows so much, I probably won't open anyway."

Thane did not return a phone call seeking comment on Monday, but in a return e-mail to Weaver, she defended the action.

"If we were to wait to notify our constituency and the snow fell heavily, there would not be enough time to move cars to designated parking lots and the parking lots would be covered in snow. This alert was issued to give folks a chance to prepare for the 6 p.m. deadline," Thane wrote. "The decision to call the emergency was not made lightly or without concern. We make every effort to be judicious. Unfortunately, there is no one decision that will make everyone happy."

Lipton said residents can likely expect a bit of a break in between the two storm systems that comprise the current snow event.

"As one storm's lifting to our west and the other one starts to strengthen, there might be a little bit of a period in there, perhaps right around daybreak, where the intensity of the precipitation is less," said Lipton. "I think we're going to get the burst of heavy snow overnight tonight (Monday). Then it'll become light snow early tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, then it'll kind of pick up and be light to moderate through the day tomorrow (Tuesday), maybe a couple of heavier bursts thrown in, but not a constant heavy snow."

Though March snowstorms are frustrating for winter weary residents eagerly anticipating spring's arrival, they are far from unusual, Lipton said.

"Some of our biggest storms here in the Northeast happen in March, even April sometimes," said Lipton. "This will not be one of the biggest March storms, fortunately, on record, but it will be, certainly, one of the bigger ones of this year."

Though the snow will stop Tuesday night, winter is expected to retain its grip on the region through the remainder of the week.

"Unfortunately, we're still looking for relatively cold weather to continue beyond that, so, it's not going to be very springlike even though the calendar will officially say spring," said Lipton. "It's still going to be kind of chilly through the weekend."