Thousands of residents lost power from the mid-December ice storm that hit the Capital District and beyond last week as National Grid continues restoring power this week.
The winter storm knocked out power across the Northeast, affecting close to 500,000 homes and businesses, including a number of those in Albany County, according to information provided by National Grid.
National Grid listed Albany County as one of the hardest-hit areas in New York, and residents dealt with power outages and snow removal issues for days after the Thursday, Dec. 11, and Friday, Dec. 12, storm that brought with it sheets of freezing rain.
It is clear that full power may not be restored for several days, National Grid representative Steve Brady said on Saturday, Dec. 13.
National Grid reported more than 240,000 customers lost power in the state, with the most affected areas including the counties of Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady and Rensselaer. The power and gas company received national support for the restoration effort, with close to 1,000 line and tree contractor crews from states as far away as Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Washington, North Carolina, Virginia, Baltimore and Philadelphia, coming to assist.
Approximately 250 mutual aid utility crews were sent from Ohio, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to support the effort.
Locally, the towns of Bethlehem, Guilderland and Colonie opened their doors to the community.
Bethlehem Supervisor Jack Cunningham activated the town’s emergency management response plan and has opened Town Hall as a warming station for residents.
The Town of Guilderland also opened emergency shelters at the Guilderland Fire Department and the Fort Hunter Fire Department for residents without power on Saturday, Dec. 13.
As part of Bethlehem’s emergency response plan, the town’s Senior Services Department is contacting seniors to ensure their safety, while Highway and public works crews have been working since late last night to clear roads.
While most primary roads in Bethlehem were open after the storm, some roads remained closed due to fallen wires, and some traffic lights were out. National Grid reported that 8,564 Bethlehem customers lost power.
In addition, the Bethlehem Police Department and all fire departments were a part of the emergency effort to ensure public safety and help residents without power.
Cunningham said the Bethlehem contacted county officials and was prepared to work with the Red Cross to open an emergency shelter in the event the power outage was long-term.
Don Reeb, the president of the McKownville Improvement Association in Guilderland said much of the area has been without power since Thursday, Dec. 11. Reeb said some neighbors have been assisting one another by providing power cords to keep sump pumps running and providing them with hot showers.
Both the Guilderland and Bethlehem central school districts faced
repercussions from the storm, and were forced to close all schools on Friday, Dec. 12. Two Bethlehem schools, Hamagrael and Clarksville, were still closed on Monday, as well as the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk school district, because of power outages.
In addition, both North and South Colonie Central school districts were closed on the Friday after the storm.
Colonie town officials said they waited for the county to declare a state of emergency, as 19,000 residents and businesses were without power, according to Town Supervisor Paula Mahan.
`This storm was just devastating,` she said, explaining that the inclement weather caused not only buildings to lose power, but traffic lights to go out all across town as well.
Mahan said that by the time Gov. David Paterson declared the state of emergency, the town had already used all of its resources, including placing police officers throughout the town on overtime, all fire departments, EMS, and Department of Public Works services. Mahan also said that the town’s highway department began salting the roads on Thursday evening, and continued through Monday.
At the same time, National Grid began to set a goal for all power to be restored.
`Their goal was to hopefully have the majority of everything back up and running by Wednesday, but there are some areas that it might take a little longer,` said Mahan. `We were hit very, very hard in Colonie.`
A designated shelter was set up in the Village of Colonie for residents who needed a place to stay and meal to eat, and is being run as a collaborative effort between the village and the American Red Cross. The shelter was still operating with town residents staying through Monday.
Also on Monday, Colonie began Phase 2 of its emergency mode process, which involves the cleanup of various messes left in the wake of the storm.
This includes a debris pickup system where residents can leave their debris on the curb for town pickup.
Mahan said there will be a lot of follow-up on the town’s part in regard to the storm.
`We have to wait to see if FEMA declares the emergency, and at that point, we would put in our requests and see if there’s anything we can be reimbursed for,` she said.
By Monday, Mahan said that power was restored to nearly 10,000 residences and businesses townwide.
Local businesses were also forced to deal with the storm.
`We hit early and often,` said Brian Karral a representative of Stuyvesant Plaza maintenance. `We took it as it came.`
Stuyvesant Plaza and Crossgates Mall, two economic generators in the Town of Guilderland, both were able to remain open and maintain power throughout the storm, as did Colonie Center.
`Reporters Dan Sabbatino, Ariana Cohn and Jarrett Carroll contributed to this report“