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Winter storm closes schools and more

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MASSENA - The storm that hit the north country Thursday night and continued through the day Friday closed schools, government offices, libraries and more.

“Everything has been plowed about three or four times,” Morristown Highway Superintendent Michael L. Bogart said Friday afternoon.

He expected to be out again throughout the night and well into today.

“It’s just a constant plow, plow, plow,” Mr. Bogart said.

Ogdensburg Director of Public Works Kit W. Smith said in the city they’re attacking the storm with a fleet of 12 plows that went out Thursday night will be out around the clock until the storm in over and everything is cleaned up.

“They’ll be running about 12-hour shifts around the clock until everything is cleaned up, and it will get cleaned up so long as we keep up with it,” he said. “It is what we expected. It’s no more than the usual north country storm, we just haven’t had one in the past couple of years.”

Mr. Smith also asked the public to be diligent and watch out for plows, while also using caution even though the roads may appear to be clear.

“Even though the roads are clear, it can lull drivers into a false sense of security,” he said. “The high winds can create a hazard. Even if we keep the plows out and 80 percent of the road is clear the wind gusts can send the snow drifts across the road.”

The list of school closings included all 18 districts in the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES district, as well as Salmon River Central School, WIC offices in Canton and Massena, and Head Start programs from around St. Lawrence County. SUNY Canton closed for the day and SUNY Potsdam closed at 3 p.m.

Parishville-Hopkinton Superintendent Darin P. Saiff said Thursday’s storm was the first time this school year that his district has used a snow day.

“I usually speak with our head of transportation who works with each of the town’s road supervisors,” Mr. Saiff said. “This morning though was a little bit different, because we had a winter storm warning versus a storm watch and with the magnitude of it, it made sense to close down.”

Mr. Saiff said his concern wasn’t necessarily the amount of snow that had fallen, but the combination of snow and wind, which often makes for dangerous driving conditions.

“We were concerned mostly with drifts and visibility,” he said. “The towns and state do a great job of keeping the roads clean, but with a storm like this it’s hard to keep up.”

Potsdam Highway Superintendent John A. Keleher his crews began work early Friday morning.

“We came in at 3:30 this morning and there was roughly two to three inches on the ground,” he said, adding that as of 12:30 p.m. his crews were making their third our fourth trip around town.

“This storm is a little different from the last one,” he said. “You can actually see.”

Mr. Keleher said the town had seven plows on the road, plus a pickup.

“There hasn’t been any one time where there was more than a couple inches on the roads,” he said. “Our next challenge will likely come on Monday when it warms up and we get some rain or freezing rain.”

Massena Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad said he’s got crews working 24 hours a day, noting his crews began attacking the storm at 5 a.m.

“We’re keeping up with it,” he said. “We’ve got it under control.”

One motorist not worried about the conditions was Doug Kerr of Louisville, who was out shopping at Price Chopper with his wife Friday afternoon.

“Seeing how the storm wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, we decided to come out and stock up,” he said. “When you live in the north country, even the worst storms are mild compared to what we got in the past.”

Peter Banacos, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt., said that as of late Friday afternoon 6.5 inches of snow had fallen in Ogdensburg, with seven inches reported in Malone. Mr. Banacos said no snowfall totals were available for Massena or Potsdam.

He did say, however, that residents in St. Lawrence County could expect the storm to subside early Saturday morning, “likely around daybreak,” he said.

Reporters Amanda Purcell and Sean Ewart contributed to this report.

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