Region cleans up after first big storm of season


Recorder News Staff

Residents throughout the area were forced to break out the shovels and snowblowers on Thursday with the first major snowfall of this winter season leaving parts of the region buried beneath more than a foot of snow.

According to National Weather Service Meteorologist George Maglaras, the town of Glen took the prize for highest snowfall totals in Montgomery County with 14.5 inches recorded on the ground as of noon on Thursday.

In Fulton County, the highest totals were recorded in Caroga Lake at 12.25 inches.

The storm itself arrived in the area Wednesday evening, having made its way from the Midwest.

According to Maglaras, both the size and track of the storm were fairly standard for the region.

"What it eventually did is moved into the Ohio Valley and then kind of reformed along the mid-Atlantic coast and that moved out to sea," said Maglaras. "That track is usually a fairly good track for us to get a decent amount of snow here.

"It's your typical significant winter snowstorm, probably something that in your average year, you may get two, three or four of these in any given year," he added.

By Thursday evening, Maglaras said, the storm was located slightly Northeast of Cape Cod and moving steadily out to sea.

Winter storm warnings were canceled in Fulton and Montgomery Counties as of 3:25 p.m. on Thursday, Maglaras said.

"There's still some flurries around, but there won't be any additional accumulations," he said.

In Amsterdam, where the National Weather Service recorded 10.5 inches of snowfall as of noon on Thursday, the season's first significant storm left the city's Department of Public Works crews scrambling to keep up and dealing with a number of obstacles.

Chief among the concerns of Amsterdam's Department of Public Works General Foreman Ray Halgas was the number of vehicles parked illegally on city streets, impeding the ability of DPW crews to clear the snow.

"Our biggest problem has been, like normal, the non-adhering to the alternate parking," Halgas said. "I know that each truck has been calling in all day to the dispatcher and he's been calling the police department.

"When you have a parking problem, that just compounds the problem," he added. "It would be nice if we had the whole city of Amsterdam that had no cars parked on it. It wouldn't be a problem."

Amsterdam Police Det. Lt. Kurt Conroy said the department had fielded a number of calls throughout the day regarding vehicles that had to be removed.

"There were several cars that had to be removed or ticketed because they weren't adhering to the alternate parking," said Conroy of the Amsterdam Police Department. "We try to get out and issue the warning tickets. We issued numerous warning tickets in the beginning of the year to kind of educate people.

"We do it every year," he added. "It doesn't matter how much we do that, it always happens."

Halgas said the city's first plows hit the roads at approximately 9:30 Wednesday night and a total of seven trucks worked throughout the night and most of the day.

By Thursday evening, the number of trucks had increased to 10.

"The streets are getting there," Halgas said. "We've just got some clean up left. They will not go home until we're done."

Halgas said crews were expected to be finished clearing the city's streets by approximately 11 p.m. on Thursday.

Though the storm was fairly average, Halgas said, the duration of it did somewhat hinder his crews' ability to maintain the streets.

"The biggest thing, too, is the longevity of the storm," said Halgas. "It snowed for over 13 hours.

"The thing is that it started last night and then it would stop for a while and it wasn't too bad then all of a sudden it would start up again, so you never really got ahead of this storm," he added.

Halgas explained that, for plowing purposes, the city is broken up into three sectors: East of Market Street, west of Market Street and the South Side. Each sector is assigned one big plow and one pick-up truck and the streets are prioritized -- main roads and arteries, secondary hills, level roads and, finally, dead ends.

"Some people call and say: 'How come my dead end street isn't done?' Well, a dead end is the last thing you do," Halgas said.

Also complicating issues, Halgas said, were several private contractors dumping the snow from driveways and businesses into the city's streets.

"I don't know how many times they called with private contractors plowing snow from people's driveways and businesses plowing snow out into the middle of the road and leaving it," Halgas said.

The timing of the snowfall, immediately following Christmas, also made the availability of crews an issue.

Halgas said the public works department employees a total of 43 workers amongst the four bureaus (streets, sanitation, water and sewer,) but only 20 were available to plow through this storm.

"It's a tough time of the year because there's guys that use up their vacation and personal time," said Halgas. "We always have a lot a garbage out right after Christmas and we also had to lose 6 guys from street to assist sanitation. We had guys from the Sewer Department plowing.

"The problem is, you know what, you have no control over the weather," he said.

For Halgas and public works crews throughout the area, there is some relief in sight.

According to Maglaras, there is no more significant snowfall in the immediate future.

"There will be another coastal system moving out to sea, but it will probably pass further south than this one did and we probably won't get into the heavier snow associated with that," Maglaras said. "We'll just get some lighter snow associated with an upper level system that will move across the region at roughly the same time."

"If the coastal low winds up coming closer well get a little bit more snow, but right now we're just looking at some light accumulations primarily from the upper level system," he added.

The minor snowfall is expected to arrive this weekend, Maglaras said.