Snow nears 3 feet — and still dumping
Local schools cancel tomorrow's classes
Winter Storm Stella has blasted the Tri-Lakes area with close to 3 feet of snow by 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, and Essex and Franklin counties declared states of emergency and asked people to stay off the roads.
Some schools have already canceled classes for tomorrow, and skiers who thought winter was over are rejoicing.
“Stella!!” Dewey Mountain Recreation Center Manager Jason Smith posted on the cross-country ski center’s website Tuesday evening, with a picture of himself raising a fist in the air.
State Olympic Regional Development Authority Communications Director Jon Lundin said it took him 45 minutes to drive home to Saranac Lake from Lake Placid Tuesday evening, at an average speed of 22 mph.
“There is no Route 86 to be found,” he said. “It’s completely snow covered.”
Later that night, he reported that Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington, a state-owned facility that ORDA runs, had gotten 33 inches of fresh powder as of 10 p.m., with more expected overnight.
“For those of us who thought Stella was going to be another miss today, were we ever wrong,” ORDA’s press release said.
Essex County’s state of emergency, signed by Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Preston, took effect at noon. It allows all county departments and agencies to take whatever steps are necessary to “protect life, property and public infrastructure, or to provide emergency assistance.” It also allows the county superintendent of public works, purchasing agent and emergency services director to enter into emergency contracts for any necessary services.
In a subsequent press release, the county Office of Emergency Services urged the general public to “remain off roadways until further notice with exception of essential personnel.”
Franklin County Manager Donna Kissane declared a county-wide state of emergency around 3 p.m. She asked people to limit all non-essential travel “to allow emergency vehicles easy access and highway departments the ability to keep roads clear.”
“The most important thing is public safety,” said county Board of Legislators Chairwoman Barbara Rice of Saranac Lake. “We’re trying to clear the roads of traffic so our crews can get out there and plow the roads. The less people driving around, the better.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a tractor-trailer ban on the Adirondack Northway, Interstate 87, between Albany and the Canadian border, and a full travel ban on I-84 from the Pennsylvania border to the Connecticut border. Both went into effect at 1 p.m. The I-84 ban expired at 8 p.m., but the I-87 tractor trailer ban remained in effect.
Cuomo declared a statewide state of emergency Monday evening, starting at midnight, and directed non-essential state employees to stay home from work today — except in the state’s six northern-most counties: Franklin, Essex, Clinton, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson.
Storm totals in the Tri-Lakes region of the Adirondacks had surpassed 34 inches in Saranac Lake by 11 p.m. Tuesday, with similar totals being reported in the areas of Lake Placid, Wilmington, Keene, Jay and AuSable Forks – and the snow was still coming down.
Colleen O’Neill of Saranac Lake reported 37 inches of snow in her yard, surpassing the 3-foot mark.
A National Weather Service winter storm warning ended at 8 p.m. Wednesday for the western Adirondacks, including southern Franklin County. The weather service expected accumulations of 18 to 24 inches, with gusty winds producing “considerable blowing and drifting snow into early Wednesday morning” — but the top end of that range had already been reached by 8 p.m., and it kept going from there.
A separate blizzard warning remains in effect until 11 p.m. Wednesday. The weather service says 14 to 24 inches of snow are expected to accumulate in the St. Lawrence Valley, eastern Adirondacks and the Champlain Valley, including Essex County. Areas of blowing snow will continue into Wednesday.
Schools closed, ski centers to open
Many local schools were closed all day or had early dismissal due to today’s snowstorm. All campuses of North Country Community College closed today. Paul Smith’s College is on mid-semester recess this week.
With no end in sight to the storm yet, some schools have already canceled classes on Wednesday. As of 7:30 p.m. the list included both Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid schools. The Long Lake Central School District is planning a two-hour delay to the start of classes.
While some people might not like seeing so much snow half-way through March, it’s been a welcome sight for skiers.
Mount Pisgah Ski Center in Saranac Lake, which had been closed since a late February warm-up, plans to reopen Wednesday from noon to 8 p.m. Meanwhile, the lift lines at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington will likely be packed with powder-hungry skiers on Wednesday morning – as soon as they can dig their vehicles out of their homes.
With most people hunkering down at home, the streets of the Tri-Lakes villages were quiet for a Tuesday evening, except for snowplows. Local and state police reported no major car crashes or collisions.
Some people were digging their vehicles and driveways out Tuesday night, but many clearly have a big chore ahead of them.
Many businesses, banks, post offices and libraries closed early.
“When the governor issues a state of emergency with no unnecessary travel, we take it seriously!” read a post on the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library’s Facebook page. The library closed at noon today.
Some evening events were canceled, including a Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce after-hours social at St. Bernard’s School. A spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the SaraPlacid Pee Wee hockey team, which is going to this weekend’s state tournament in Buffalo, was still going on as planned at Nonna Fina restaurant in Saranac Lake, although organizers told people to use their own discretion in attending, given the weather.
Those who did venture out were met with strong winds and blowing snow.
“I just took my dog out for a walk on Park Avenue,” Rice told the Enterprise around 4:30 p.m. “It’s crazy out. Even walking, the visibility is terrible.”
Over in Lake Placid, Mayor Craig Randall asked residents and tourists to remove parked vehicles from village streets before midnight Wednesday as plows were tasked with moving snow piles at important locations.
More than 30 inches of snow deluged Lake Placid over the course of Thursday, most of it falling in the later afternoon and leading to a nightfall where roads were impassable for most vehicles.
Down on Main Street, Lake Placid Police Department traffic control officers Marty Perkins described a “very quiet” downtown that was empty aside from a few tourists taking in the aesthetic of the snowfall. Perkins said he spent most of the day helping delivery trucks and stuck cars to traverse hills.
“The trucks have been struggling all day,” he said. “They probably won’t even be here tomorrow. The delivery trucks that came, they should have known better.”
Most businesses in the village let employees leave early, as did the village and town offices, who sent staffers home at around 3 p.m., if not earlier. The regularly scheduled North Elba Town Council meeting slated for 7 p.m. was cancelled, a make-up time and date yet to be announced.
Perkins walked by the Mirror Lake Beach late in the afternoon Tuesday when a family of tourists from Tampa watched their daughter sled down a hill. Jonathan Gorab said it was the first time his young daughter Frankie had ever seen snow and Perkins told Gorab it was “the finest” snow he’d seen in years.
“I’m going home and putting my boards on and am going to go ski on the streets,” Perkins said. “I’m going to go hit all the side streets. I live on Wesvalley Road. I’m going to ski over the hill and come down some of the streets — there won’t be anyone out tonight.”
“The snow is great,” Jonathan Gorab added. “But just like anything else, too much is too much.”
The Adirondack Health/Lake Placid Site Emergency Room on Church Street will remain open throughout tonight, according to emergency room staff. The Lake Placid emergency room is normally open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. In the event of an emergency, village of Lake Placid officials ask people to dial 911, or call the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service at 518-523-9511 or the Lake Placid Fire Department/Police Department at 518-523-3306.
Across the country, nearly 6,000 flights scheduled for today have been canceled. That includes Cape Air’s three daily flights out of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.
“Since we didn’t have any flights we just closed down so we could focus on plowing and keeping up with it,” said airport Manager Corey Hurwitch. “Right now we’ve got two guys out there just going back and forth on the runways, taxiways and apron so when it does slow down we can reopen quickly.”
Hurwitch said he doesn’t mind the snow.
“If it’s all snow like this, it’s easy for us to deal with,” he said. “It’s when we get the ice or the temperatures are fluctuating like they were a few weeks ago that we really struggle. We’re actually looking forward to a storm where all we have to do is plowing.”
Staff Writers Antonio Olivero and Ben Gocker, and Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this report.