By JOHN PURCELL
Recorder News Staff
Montgomery County is preparing for potentially two feet of snow by Wednesday due to a nor’easter that was likely to hit the region today.
New York is currently under a state of emergency and Amsterdam and the village of Fonda are currently under snow emergencies.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning effective today until 8 p.m. Wednesday for several areas, including the Mohawk Valley and greater Capital Region. The winter storm warning was issued due to significant amounts of snowfall forecasted, which will make travel dangerous.
Dan Thompson, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Albany, said Montgomery and Fulton counties are forecasted to have snow accumulation totaling between one to two feet by Wednesday evening. He said snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour is likely at times today.
“We recommend that if you have the choice, try to stay off the roads tomorrow,” Thompson said.
The heaviest snowfalls are projected during the mid-morning through early evening today, Thompson said. Lighter snowfall is forecasted to occur later this evening into Wednesday.
The National Weather Service advised there will be very dangerous travel conditions due to snow covered roadways and poor visibility. There are also forecasted to be gusty winds blowing snow.
Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa said he declared the snow emergency for today to allow the Amsterdam Department of Public Works to effectively clear streets.
“We need to have the plows be able to get out there and do what they need to do, especially on the main thoroughfares, and do it without having vehicles in the way,” Villa said.
All motor vehicles must be removed from streets within the city when the snow emergency takes effect and must remain off roadways until the emergency order is lifted. Villa said Monday that he hopes to lift the snow emergency by Wednesday afternoon, but city officials would evaluate weather conditions and plowing progress before making a final decision.
The village of Fonda has issued a snow emergency starting at 2 a.m. today that will continue until Friday at 6 a.m.
Street and Water Commissioner Chris Weaver said it’s “to keep people off the roads from driving around.”
Mayor William Peeler said the biggest thing that people misunderstand during the snow emergency is that if you have to go to work, you are still allowed on the roads. The snow emergency is issued to encourage people to avoid unnecessary travel.
Weaver said the snow emergency is also to keep people parked off the streets for plowing. Peeler said those who are still parked on the street during this period could receive a ticket.
Peeler said the crews were preparing their equipment Monday, making sure the salt piles were in stock and there was enough to get the village through the storm. He said the storm tops of the street drains are cleared regularly so when the snow melts the drains work.
“They maintain equipment on a daily basis and they have the trucks loaded and everything in place so when the snow starts they can respond,” Peeler said.
Staff left early Monday, so they could be properly rested for the storm. The village’s three employees, as well as their part-time person will be working in shifts today. Peeler said they will work in teams of two, in two separate vehicles so they can work a 12-hour shift.
“That is something you rarely see these days for a municipality our size, is to have 24 hour plowing,” Peeler said.
In the meantime, government offices and schools announced closings on Monday.
The Amsterdam Transportation Department is closed today and there will no bus runs. Villa also called for Amsterdam City Hall to close early today at noon, so employees can get home safely.
Montgomery County Emergency Management Deputy Director Rick Sager said he has been in contact with the state emergency operations and Department of Transportation. Sager said the county will remain in contact with local transportation leaders to ensure how plows are faring and if roads become closed.
“Hopefully it doesn’t come down at too fast of a rate and the plows will be able to keep up with it,” Sager said. “It will probably be the biggest storm of the season.”
Amsterdam DPW General Foreman Phil Bracchi said Monday afternoon that the department already had a plan in place for where each plow is going and who is driving it. There are nine city vehicles scheduled to plow roads today, which includes five big trucks and four small trucks.
Bracchi said periods of heavy snowfall could result in secondary roads being plowed later than what is typically done during less severe storms. He said in these instances main roads will likely be plowed twice before trucks head onto secondary roads.
Bracchi said the snow emergency last month was very helpful for crews to clear off streets more effectively. He believed the manpower hours saved with vehicles being off the roads was significant.
“I applaud the mayor for putting in the emergency, it really helps,” Bracchi said. “We apologize in advance for buried sidewalks and driveways, but it’s just the nature of the beast, us getting it back as far as we can. Hopefully we’ll get warmer weather and it’ll go quick.”
Villa said calling a snow emergency isn’t something he does lightly, because he’s aware of the inconvenience faced by some residents.
“I don’t like to call a snow emergency, because it’s an inconvenience to a lot of people,” Villa said. “There’s probably not enough off-street parking that’s convenient for everyone, but you have to balance that with let’s give the guys a chance to do the most that they can do within that 24-hour period without worrying about cars.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Monday spanning every county and activated the State Emergency Operations Center to prepare and respond to the nor’easter. All non-essential state employees impacted by the storm were also urged to stay home.
“To ensure our local governments have the resources and support they need to prepare and respond quickly to the impending winter storm, I am declaring a statewide state of emergency,” Cuomo said Monday in a press release. “With heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions expected from upstate to downstate, we are taking every precaution to keep New Yorkers safe. I urge residents to stay informed, avoid unnecessary travel, and where possible, leave work early as heavy snowfall is expected to begin tonight.”
For immediate cell phone notifications regarding this or any city emergency, residents can sign up to receive alerts through Nixle at www.nixle.com, or by texting 12010 to 888-777.
The Montgomery County Emergency Management Office has an app providing updates and alerts during emergency situations, which can be found by searching for “Montgomery County EMO” in the Apple App Store of Google Play store.
The Governor’s Office reminded motorists to check 511NY by calling 511, or visiting www.511ny.org before traveling. The free service allows anyone to check road conditions and transit information. There is a also a 511NY app available for smartphones.