Early spring ice, snow, and electromagnetic storms surprise forecasters

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Trees and power lines are iced on Sunday morning as a Guilderland plow clears Brandle Road.

ALBANY COUNTY — Saturday’s early spring storm surprised forecasters, with ice and wet, heavy snow falling across eastern New York, including Albany County.

County Executive Daniel McCoy declared a state of emergency on Saturday, “due to dangerous weather conditions,” asking “those who do not have to travel to stay off the roads so crews may clear them and to help utility crews in their efforts to get the power back on.”

He rescinded the order on Sunday evening but urged caution for travelers and warned rising temperatures on Monday could lead to ice melting and subsequent flooding.

National Grid, as of 4 p.m. on Monday, reported that crews had restored power to 212,000 of the nearly 217,000 customers affected by the storm.

“Some areas in the region saw ice accretion of a half-inch on power lines and trees, compounded by more than 20 inches of snow and gusty winds,” the power company said in a release. “This combination of elements caused extensive, widespread damage, and fallen trees and associated debris created access issues for company crews.”

As of 6 p.m. on March 25, according to National Grid’s map of outages, there were 175 active outages affecting 3,473 customers.

In the midst of the early spring snow and ice storm on Sunday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced a G4 electromagnetic storm is currently occurring over much of the northern United States, including the State of New York.”

NOAA explained on its website that a coronal mass ejection caused by a flare on the Sun on March 23 “arrived at Earth as expected on 24 Mar. Effects are likely to linger but decrease coming into 26 Mar.”

“I have been briefed on the potential impact to New York,” Hochul’s statement went on, saying that the state would “be impacted by this space weather event until 2:00 AM on Monday morning.”

She concluded, “While there have been no reported disruptions to the electrical grid or radio communication, State personnel are actively monitoring and coordinating with industry stakeholders and the federal government.”

The town of Guilderland posted on its website early Sunday afternoon that town staff and local fire departments worked throughout this snowstorm, including overnight, by clearing roads for National Grid’s crews and first responders, and helping to restore power for at-risk town residents.

“The first priority is restoring power to critical facilities, like water substations and schools, and addressing outages at over 100 residences that have persons on life support. At its peak, the Town had over 14,000 customers out,” the post said and went on to note Altamont, Fort Hunter, Guilderland, Guilderland Center, and Westmere fire departments were open as warming centers with Westmere providing a pancake breakfast.

The neighboring town of Bethlehem used its town hall as a warming center on Sunday and then again on Monday. Also on Monday, Bethlehem announced that dry Ice would be distributed by National Grid on Monday morning at the former ShopRite location in Slingerlands.

On Sunday evening, Bob Miller of Delmar posted this on Nextdoor: “This evening with the storm and sitting here without power I’ve been listening to the scanner for Bethlehem Volunteer Fire. They are going from one call to another. We will and we hope all of you as well within the next few days send donations to all the town volunteer companies. We would be lost without them.”

More Regional News

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  • Former Berne Town Board member Joel Willsey, who has long scrutinized that town’s highway practices, has discovered that the state’s official document-retention schedule is at odds with state law, allowing towns to discard notices after just one year instead of the five required by law. 

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