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Sackets residents survive, recall 1998’s ice storm

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SACKETS HARBOR —When he heard an ice storm was coming, Robert D. Oram knew he could rely on a piece of machinery he used the last time a big one hit the north country.

He hooked up a small generator he had during the storm of 1998, and once again it kept his family of six warm in their Dodge Avenue home. With the engine roaring outside, the family huddled in one room and watched the tree limbs droop and fall.

“It’s cold, but it’s not like 1998,” he said while checking on the condition of his property shortly before noon Monday.

The village of Sackets Harbor and the town of Hounsfield were among the hardest hit areas, although conditions improved later Monday. At about 1 p.m., power was restored to some homes in the village. Many residents, however, recalling weeks without power after the 1998 ice storm, had braced for the worst this time.

At one point Sunday, it was so bad that Mayor Vincent J. Battista III declared a state of emergency and closed all roads in the village. On Monday, he opened an emergency shelter with food at the Village Hall. Several residents had stayed there the night before.

Lines of National Grid trucks converged on the village Monday to restore electricity. It appeared that at least one crew was on every street.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Daniel F. Smith was chopping ice on his sidewalk when his wife, Suzanne G., poked her head out the front door and told him they had electricity.

“We’re good to go,” a relieved Mr. Smith said, adding they had a much better time than they did 15 years ago when they went without power for 22 days. “I’m very glad it’s over.”

They cooked their meals on their barbecue grill and wood stove, which also kept them warm, he said. Without the electric furnace working, freezing pipes were his only worry, he said.

Early in the storm, most of the village was shut down, with the mayor’s Sackets Harbor Country Mart the only business that stayed opened the entire time. Meanwhile, O.D. Greene Lumber & Hardware and the Nice N’ Easy convenience store, both on Route 3, were open for at least part of the time.

At O.D. Greene, customers were still stopping by on Monday afternoon to pick up much-needed supplies. Rock salt, propane, batteries and parts for generators were the big items. Older customers also bought out the store’s stock of 12 pairs of “Ice Walkers,” cleats with metal bottoms, said Manager Rose Fitzgerald.

“This certainly helped business,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said.

While it was inconvenient for everyone, the storm also created an emotional burden for some. Dawn Marie Grant is still grieving the death of her husband, Gary S. Grant, 63, whom she buried on Wednesday. He died after a lengthy bout with cancer.

Joined by his sisters and nephew, the family built a snowman in the front yard in memory of Mr. Grant before the ice storm began. As temperatures rose, the snowman began to droop and melt.

It was the first time Mrs. Grant’s nephew, Christopher N. Haines, 27, had ever seen snow — and he said he was not enjoying it.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “I really don’t get it.”

Despite her pain, Mrs. Grant managed a joke as she sat on a step in her garage.

“I gave him a beautiful send-off on Wednesday, and he did this,” she said.

With the storm over, her focus was turning to how her relatives would make it home to Arizona and Tennessee. They worried whether their flights would be canceled.

“My husband said there’s worries of tornados in Nashville,” Mrs. Grant’s sister-in-law Mary-Ann Collins said.

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