Essex County declares snow emergency

Essex County lawmakers on Tuesday, March 14 declared a state of emergency as a nor’easter slammed the East Coast with heavy, wet snow.

The state of emergency will last five days unless lawmakers decide to either terminate or extend the order, according to county documents. The emergency order was signed by county Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Gillilland.

“The snow is coming real fast and furious, and it’s hard for our highway crews to keep up,” Gillilland said Tuesday. “We’re asking people to please only travel if it’s essential.”

Essex County’s emergency communication system was being bombarded with heavy, wet snow on Tuesday, according to Gillilland. He said the county could need to send repair crews up into the mountains to repair communications at any time. He described how in some areas the storm is causing trees to fall into roadways and onto power lines, knocking out power to some homes and communication towers.

“The less congestion, the better for repair crews,” Gillilland said. “It is an emergency situation, and people should be cognizant of it.”

As of Tuesday morning, the worst of the storm was expected to largely miss the Tri-Lakes area. The National Weather Service in Burlington, Vermont, expected the Saranac Lake area to get around 5.7 inches of snow Tuesday through Thursday — the bulk of that on Tuesday night. As of Tuesday afternoon, National Grid reported no power outages in the Tri-Lakes region but several large clusters of power outages in central and southern Essex County impacting upward of 7,800 people.

Central Essex County, where the county seat of Elizabethtown is located, was expected to get upward of 12 to 18 inches of total snowfall Tuesday through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

“We’ve gotten well over a foot of snow so far,” Gillilland, of Willsboro, said just before 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Gillilland said that in a briefing with emergency services and the National Weather Service, Essex County town supervisors learned that there’s a spinning band of snow over central Essex County that’s “dropping massive amounts of snow and not moving,” and that the snow is expected to continue falling there “well into tomorrow morning.”

Between the county’s emergency services and highway crews, “things are running rather well, dealing with all of these conditions,” Gillilland said. There’s been “good communication with power companies, the American Red Cross, the Weather Service and state Homeland Security and Emergency Services.”

“We’re going to be able to handle it,” he said. He wanted residents to know that there’s “a lot of people out working hard on the roads.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a statewide state of emergency on Monday ahead of the winter storm, deploying additional state resources to the region, banning all tandem and empty tractor-trailers from traveling along stretches of interstates 87 and 90, and alerting the New York National Guard to be at the ready to assist in the state’s response to the storm.

On Tuesday, the state Thruway Authority, New York State Police and New York State Department of Transportation lifted all previous restrictions on tandem and empty tractor-trailers that began Monday evening.

“The forecasted snow totals for this winter storm keep increasing, and the weight of the snow combined with 45-mile-per-hour wind gusts will almost certainly bring down tree branches and power lines,” state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said in a statement Monday. “New Yorkers should plan for two to three days straight of hazardous winter weather starting tonight. Only travel if absolutely necessary, and keep your phones and other devices charged in case you need to call for assistance during a power outage.”

As of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, there were approximately 87,000 power outages statewide as a result of the storm, with the majority of outages impacting counties in the Capital Region, according to the governor’s office.

“As forecasted, several regions experienced between a foot and two feet of snow overnight and conditions will continue to be hazardous for travel throughout the evening Tuesday,” Hochul said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “My team is in constant contact with local officials and the National Guard is at the ready to assist with any necessary emergency response over the next two days as power outages remain a concern.”

A winter storm warning from the National Weather Service for Essex County was in effect until Wednesday morning.

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