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Storm leaves thousands in dark


The ice storm is over, but not before the north country was cloaked in an additional half-inch of ice Saturday night and more continued to fall Sunday.

As of 10 p.m. Sunday, nearly 18,000 Jefferson County residents were without power. During the day Sunday, National Grid reported that more than 26,000 residents had lost power. According to the utility, more than 70,000 north county residents lost power over the weekend.

Some Jefferson County residents, such as Edward Goshier, have sought shelter.

“I’m glad I’m up here,” Mr. Goshier said. His Emerson Street residence lost power at 5:30 a.m. Sunday and at 5:45, he lost his heat.

Mr. Goshier was among the many people that the American Red Cross expected to come to an emergency shelter set up Sunday night at Watertown High School. Richard Plumpton, a driver and caseworker for the American Red Cross, said he expected the shelter to be up and running by 9 p.m. Sunday.

Cots were set up in the gym and hot food was being prepared by employees of the school.

“It’s a place to stay, a place to be warm,” Mr. Plumpton said.

The high school was being used as an end point for other shelters such as the Salvation Army, whose State Street location was serving food and beverages to those in need, including Mr. Goshier, who said spaghetti dinners, coffee and other drinks were being served. The Salvation Army was working as a warming shelter only, meaning hot food and warm shelter were being offered, but not a place to stay the night. For that, people were being directed to the school.

“I’m going to wait it out and go back home tomorrow,” Mr. Goshier said.

But the high school was only one of the many shelters being opened in Jefferson County on Sunday night. According to Frederick D. Lampman, deputy director of Jefferson County Fire and Emergency Management, temporary shelters have been opened in Cape Vincent, Alexandria Bay, Chaumont, Dexter, Brownville and Henderson.

Mr. Lampman said the Cape Vincent, Alexandria Bay, Chaumont, Brownville and Henderson shelters were being operated by the respective fire departments.

The American Legion was hosting the Dexter shelter and the Red Cross was hosting the Watertown High School shelter.

Upwards of 30 to 40 people were reported to be at the Dexter and Henderson shelters as of 10 p.m. Sunday. The others reported having fewer than 10.

For those in Gouverneur in need of electricity, food, dry ice and water, Gouverneur High School will be open at 9 a.m. today as a warming center, with power strips available for those in need to charge cellphones and other devices.

The Salvation Army will be on hand to provide snacks and at 2 p.m., National Grid will be providing dry ice and water.

Officials said in a news release to use the door in front of the school closest to the flagpole.

The shelters throughout Jefferson County are being counted on to provide help to residents after a storm that the Watertown City Fire Department said could take two or three days to clean up from.

Even with 21 people working as of 5 p.m. Sunday and an additional six firefighters who were not scheduled to work being called in, the department still said it was struggling to keep up.

“We don’t have enough manpower to do it all,” one firefighter said. From 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, nearly 40 calls were made to the fire station, many of them reporting downed trees and power lines.

Minor injuries from auto accidents have been reported, and a Watertown man was taken to Samaritan Medical Center after he reportedly was struck by a falling tree limb at his Dimmick Street residence. The man, identified by a hospital staffer as Fred Gerloff, suffered head trauma when he was hit by the limb. He was listed in guarded condition Sunday night.

Though the storm is not considered to be as bad as the one that hit the area in 1998, which Mr. Goshier said took two weeks to fully clean up, he said it was “just as treacherous.”

It is these treacherous conditions that American Red Cross communications officer Matt Michael said north county residents should be aware of.

“People need help,” Mr. Michael said. “We’ll continue to monitor the situation.”

In addition to the shelter set up at the high school, the Red Cross contributed cots, bedding and “comfort kits.” The kits — which come in both adult and child versions — contain personal hygiene items and disposable razors for adults and a stuffed toy for children.

The Red Cross distributed the kits to the Alexandria Bay, Cape Vincent and Chaumont shelters.

Besides helping to set up and supply area shelters, the Red Cross has been working alongside local police and fire departments to provide for residents.

Jefferson County emergency officials have been doing much the same.

Mr. Lampman said the department has been helping fire departments and law enforcement agencies with auto accidents, downed power lines and trees and other situations that have arisen.

The department opened its Emergency Operations Center at 1 p.m. Sunday for the first time since the 1998 ice storm.

“Now we’re waiting to see what will happen,” Mr. Lampman said. “We’re still monitoring the situation.”

With the storm over, monitoring and recovering from it is paramount. National Grid, which already had called in 1,600 workers — the most since 1998 — to the area, called in additional workers Sunday, pushing the total over 2,000, according to a news release. The company said it called in aid from eastern New York, Long Island and New England, as well as other contractors and mutual aid crews, to combat the damage left by the storm.

“We were well prepared and have a very large and highly skilled workforce on the ground in the hardest-hit regions. We are making excellent progress, to be sure, but the level of damage is quite severe and extremely widespread,” Kenneth Daly, president of National Grid New York, said in a prepared response. “We are completing damage assessments and have developed plans that will allow us to systematically and safely address these issues. We are focused on restoring power to every impacted customer and we are pressing as quickly as we can to make that happen.”

But even when the ice stops forming and the fallen branches and wires are taken care of, there still will be work to do. Mr. Michael said the Red Cross works closely with people to provide a “long-term recovery solution” that can provide not only help for people filing insurance claims, but counselors and therapists for both mental and physical health. The organization also assists in long-term housing, such as working with social services or providing a security deposit for another residence.

But Mr. Matt said planning for exactly what kind of aid will be needed is impossible, for the Red Cross or any other agency or department working to restore the area.

“It’s a learning thing,” Mr. Matt said. “You’ve got to make a good guess.”

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