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Utility crews restore power to hundreds Monday in Colton, Parishville area

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CANTON - County officials opened two shelters Monday afternoon to assist residents who have been without power, many since late Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning, and two additional shelters opened Monday night.

The shelters are located at Colton Pierrepont Central High School and at the Gouverneur Central High School. A shelter was opened at 8 p.m. Monday in Harrisville and at 9 p.m. in Edwards.

With over 5,000 National Grid customers still without power Monday afternoon, the county made the decision to put two shelters in place for the safety of those who needed assistance, county officials said.

Utility crews had restored power to approximately 3,500 of those customers by late Monday night.

People were encouraged to come to the shelters where they could find a hot meal and cot as well as friendly faces. The shelters are being staffed by the Salvation Army and county staff, including nurses and counselors.

The shelters opened at 2 p.m. Monday and will continue to serve county residents until power is restored.

In the meantime, Sheriff Kevin Wells, in conjunction with the National Guard, deployed 16 teams of two people each to make door to door checks on those without power to assess their medical, safety, food and fuel situation.

For further information, contact the St. Lawrence County Emergency Services office at 379-2240.

National Grid reported 1,676 customers remained without power as of 9 p.m. Monday - down from 5,125 four hours earlier - in St. Lawrence County along with 4,717 customers without power in Jefferson County. Power has been restored to all customers in Franklin County, utility officials said.

Crews made major progress in the central portion of the county Monday evening.There restored service to 73 customers who had been without power Monday afternoon in the town of Potsdam as well as 83 customers - leaving 27 without power - in the town of Parishville and 23 customers in the town of Hopkinton.

Significant improvements were also reported in the town of Canton, with the number of outages dropping from 615 to 16; the town of Colton dropped from 553 to 51 and the town of Pierrepont was down from 122 to 17.

Problems remain in the southern and southwestern parts of the county. National Grid said 272 customers remain without power in the town of Fowler, 233 in the town of Pitcairn, 114 in the town of Macomb, 107 in the town of Rossie and 587 in the town of Russell.

The cost of the storm has not been totaled in the county, though crews have been working round-the-clock since the snow and ice began to fall.

“It’s not done yet,” said William E. Dashnaw, St. Lawrence County’ former highway superintendent who is filling in while a successor to Toby W. Bogart is sought. “I would only be guessing right now and I don’t like to do that.”

However, Mr. Dashnaw said he expected the cost of the storm to be high because plow crews are working 24/7 at least through Tuesday along with three to four other crews dispatched to clear limbs and other debris from roads.

The worst of the storm in the county is south of Canton in the Clare, Russell and Edwards areas where scenes are reminiscent of the 1998 ice storm when power poles snapped.

“It’s wild out there,” Mr. Dashnaw said.

The county used up all of the 400 tons of salt it stores in Canton Sunday morning but was able to get more when the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority opened up its depot.

“We’re hauling today all day,” he said.

County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire spent Monday afternoon touring the hardest-hit parts of the county and warming shelters with interim Public Health Director Lorraine B. Kourofsky and interim Emergency Services Director Keith J. Zimmerman.

The visits are to make sure medical needs are being addressed and that gathering spots which became shelters, such as Gouverneur Central School and Colton-Pierrepont Central School, are equipped with cots, food and generators. Public Health and Mental Health services of the county provided nurses and counselors. The Salvation Army was on hand with food and beverages.

“The real issue for county services is our response to the emergency,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “We’ll worry about the cost later.”

The weekend typically means a small staff at the 911 center but the county called in extra hands over the weekend to deal with additional emergency calls, Mr. Zimmerman said.

“We had no light shifts,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Department arranged for the National Guard, which was sent out teams of two to check on every house without power to assess the needs of people living there, Ms. St. Hilaire said. Staff from the Office for the Aging were making phone checks of people they knew might need help. The office’s nutrition program was also helping with food.

Canton Town Highway Supervisor Terry L. Billings said the weight of ice is gradually increasing stress on tree limbs and he’s concerned that if the wind picks up it will cause branches and power lines to go down.

“We’re still under a risk. If we get winds, it could change the whole scenario dramatically,” he said.

He said he’s “keeping his fingers crossed, “until Thursday when temperatures are predicted to climb into the low 30s, high enough to melt the ice.”

“Overall, Canton is in very good shape compared to some of the other towns,” Mr. Billings said. “We’ve had some limbs down, but we haven’t had any large diameter trees down.”

Canton Village Superintendent Brien E. Hallahan said there were only a few downed scattered tree limbs in the village and crews will try to collect them after the holidays if they’re not busy clearing streets.

A notice about limb pick-up will be placed on the Canton website.

“There are a few scattered branches here and there, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been,” Mr. Hallahan said. “We will try to help people out, but the roads come first.”

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