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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York
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Heavy snow shuts down Massena


MASSENA - Most Massena businesses and retailers were closed Thursday, as residents dug out cars, driveways and sidewalks from under 16 inches of snow.

Richard O’Hanlon, a local weather observer based in Potsdam, said 16 inches of snow fell across the region between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. Thursday. Several observers with the National Weather Service expecting said they expecgted another 2 inches or more overnight into this morning.

“We really got dumped on here,” Mr. O’Hanlon said.

The persistence of the snowfall has made digging out the roads difficult. Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad said his plowmen worked overnight and plowed many roads three times, only to have additional snow re-cover them.

“They just keep chasing the storm and trying to keep ahead of it. It’s a challenge,” Mr. Fayad said.

As the snow tapered off Thursday afternoon, Mr. Fayad said they were turning their focus to plowing the sides of roads. A “narrowing” of the roads has caused some motorists to get stuck in the mounds of snow along the shoulder. Even plow trucks and sidewalk plows have gotten stuck, he said.

“We’ve got to get out there and widen (the roads),” he said. “Eventually the snowfall will subside and we’ll get the roads cleared.”

Nature’s fury whipped snow into 6-foot tall drifts along north-facing buildings and fences around Ogdensburg. A travel advisory there remained in effect until 3:30 p.m. Thursday as plows battled against the elements.

By 3 p.m. Canton’s road crews were finishing their fifth runs over the 101 miles of road cleared by the town, a process which had begun a full 12 hours earlier. Highway Superintendent Terry L. Billings said Canton’s plows were able to work relatively unhindered by other traffic, thanks in part to how long it took many people to dig their way out of their own driveways and out onto the roadways.

“That was one good thing,” said Mr. Billings, who said 16 inches of accumulation seemed to be the tally most consistently measured around Canton.

St. Lawrence County Undersheriff Scott Bonno said the closure of schools and colleges for the winter break also helped keep traffic light. The storm also resulted in temporary closure of many libraries, local government buildings and businesses including the St. Lawrence Centre mall in Massena.

Kit W. Smith, director of Ogdensburg’s Department of Public Works, said the situation there was gradually improving later Thursday.

“We’ve got all the streets opened up at this point,” he said. “We’re working on parking lots, city sidewalks. People are going to have to be patient, this is the biggest storm we’ve had in quite a few years.”

Some city residents took matters into their own hands. Kenneth Hale pushed snow off of Dearborn Avenue with a small John Deere tractor.

“I had 30 inches of snow on my driveway this morning,” he said. “I haven’t seen that much snow fall in one burst in the 24 years I’ve lived here.”

Other places in the north country escaped the towering drifts, partially because of the Adirondacks and their foothills, said National Weather Service forecaster Eric C. Evanson. The St. Lawrence Valley is prone to stronger winds that accelerate as they blow through, he said.

Mr. Evanson said the storm was a nor’easter, forming off the New Jersey coast and moving along New England.

Another system, which caused severe weather along the Gulf of Mexico and heavy snow in the mid-west, was just west of Watertown,

“Your area has seen some of the highest snow totals across the north country,” Mr. Evanson said. “In this case, that western low is helping to enhance the snow across northern New York.”

Mr. Evanson explained that snow would taper off as both systems moved northeast out of the area.

“We’ll still see some additional accumulations, but after midnight things will really start to quiet down,” he said. “You could see another 2-4 inches of snow.”

Despite the drifts, businesses in Ogdensburg mostly were open for business, but many restaurants which usually offer delivery service kept their drivers off the road Thursday. One exception was The Dirty Gringo, whose drivers did brave the icy streets.

“We deliver every day, no matter what,” said employee Rick J. Bromley.

Heavy snow kept St. Lawrence County’s Meals on Wheels drivers off the road Thursday, though officials said they hope the program will be able to resume today.

St. Lawrence County offices in Canton remained open, however, which proved a boon for Marc C. Morley and his Hot Tamale restaurant on Main Street.

“A lot of county people are hungry today,” he chuckled, rattling off a list of county agencies to which the restaurant had made lunch deliveries. Walk-in traffic was lighter than usual, Mr. Morley said, but the restaurant’s sidewalks were being kept clear for anyone who might pass by.

By noon, J. Bradshaw Mintener was undertaking his second serious bout of shoveling outside the Pear Tree gift shop farther up Canton’s Main Street — also open, and also having seen a few customers despite the inhospitable weather.

“This reminds me of my home state of Minnesota,” Mr. Mintener said as he tossed another scoop of snow onto the growing pile looming above the pavement.

Mr. O’Hanlon predicted additional snow flurries overnight Thursday, but said the worst of the snowfall came Wednesday night and Thursday morning. He expected snowfall to be heaviest in the “lake-effect area” across Jefferson, Louis and Oswego counties.

According to Mr. O’Hanlon, Thursday’s snowstorm was the sixth-heaviest to hit the north country in the last century. The heaviest occured in March 1943, when the Canton area received 34 inches of snow over an unspecified time period.

Like most heavy blizzards to hit the area, Mr. O’Hanlon said, this storm system moved in from the southwest, picked up cold air over the Rockies and came into contact with warm air moving up from the Caribbean. This created some 34 tornadoes from Texas to Alabama during Christmas and Wednesday.

Staff writers Roger DuPuis and Christopher Robbins contributed to this report.

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