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    Hochul declares emergency, utilities eye outages as storm approaches

    March 14, 2023 - Steve Hughes, Times Union, Albany, N.Y.


      Mar. 13—ALBANY — The state and utility companies across upstate made plans to confront widespread power outages as a storm bringing a one-two punch of heavy, wet snow and powerful wind closed in on the region Monday.

      The storm system is expected to dump at least a foot of snow on much of the Capital Region, with higher elevations and parts of the Catskills expecting two feet or more. The National Weather Service is also forecasting high winds, with gusts up to 30 mph, creating the conditions for the collapse of trees, branches and power lines.

      National Grid staff briefed reporters Monday morning, offering no firm predictions for the impact of the potential outages. Roughly 70,000 customers lost service when heavy snow hit during a storm earlier this month, and company officials expect this storm could cause similar damage.

      State officials said they are mustering resources, including National Guard members and plow crews from other parts of the state, to help handle the areas that are expected to receive the brunt of the storm damage.

      "We're going to see serious loss of power," Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters during a briefing in Colonie.

      The heaviest snow was expected to fall overnight, with the National Weather Service warning between 1 and 2 inches per hour could fall at points before sunrise Tuesday.

      Some schools already were canceling after-school events late Monday morning.

      Hochul said a state of emergency will begin at 8 p.m. Monday for counties in the Capital Region, Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the North Country. She urged people to stay off the roads if possible, both for their own safety and for plow drivers.

      "It is very, very hard to plow the roads when there are people in front of you or cars that insisted on venturing out and end up in a ditch and have to be rescued," she said.

      The state Thruway Authority also imposed a travel ban during the state of emergency on all tandem and empty tractor trailers from Thruway Exit 17 to Exit 36, as well as the length of the Berkshire Spur, which connects the highway to the Massachusetts Turnpike. The state Department of Transportation is banning tandem and empty tractor trailers from Interstates 84 and 88, as well as on the Northway from Albany to Plattsburgh while the state of emergency is in effect.

      Hochul said all state employees in the Capital Region who can work from home should do so and urged other workers to do the same.

      At a press conference hosted by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Michael DiAcetis, manager of National Grid's customer and community relations, said he expected the storm would cause damage similar to a winter storm that hit March 3.

      That storm, which dumped 4 to 5 inches or more of wet, heavy snow on the region, caused 72,000 outages in National Grid's eastern New York region that lasted through the weekend.

      "We're expecting potentially the same impact like last week," DiAcetis said.

      It's possible last week's storm culled the weakest tree branches already, so there could be less damage, but that is not certain especially if the snow is heavier than last time and there is more snowfall.

      The biggest causes of outages from winter weather is wind and downed branches and trees that bring down utility poles and electric lines. The restoration process can be dangerous and slow, especially during winter months. And wet, heavy snow tends to cause the most damage, bending branches to their breaking point.

      Sheehan said city residents who park on the street will be able to leave vehicles in Washington Park to get them out of the way of the city's snow plows. She said she was most worried about University at Albany students who are away for spring break and left behind cars.

      "If you left a car on the street, call a friend," Sheehan said, her remarks aimed at UAlbany students. "Hopefully you left the keys behind."

      The storm is also very likely to impact air travel throughout the northeast. Albany International Airport officials urged travelers with flight reservations to check with their airline for information on opportunities to reschedule their flights.

      Rick Karlin and Mike Goodwin contributed reporting to this article.


      (c)2023 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.)

      Visit the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) at

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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