Fierce storm blows through town, leaving destruction in its wake

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

A maple tree in the front yard of John Hukey’s Sunset Drive home in Altamont — one of a pair — lost a branch in Wednesday’s storm that crashed into the corner of his home.

GUILDERLAND — A violent storm ripped through town on Wednesday afternoon, downing power lines and closing roads.

“The trees were bent over like all of them would break,” said Bill Quay, standing in his once-tidy backyard, now littered with leaves and small branches, on Sunset Drive just after the storm passed through.

He pointed to a large broken aspen, its substantial trunk cracked into a box-like shape.

The storm, he said, came through across the street from his house, tearing a large limb from a stately old tree at the home owned by Hale and Mary Hughes. It then crossed over to the yard of Quay’s next-door neighbor, John Hukey. 

There, a large limb, ripped from a maple, crashed into the corner of Hukey’s single-story home. Hukey’s backyard was covered in debris.

Quay pointed to the neighbor’s yard behind his backyard. “Look, it ripped out the heart of his maple tree; it looks like two trees,” he said.

“It was scary,” said Quay. “I’ve never seen it blow so hard. The rain was coming sideways.”

Scott Wood pulled up in his truck to the Hughes’s yard and started picking up fallen branches. He said he was a neighbor, helping out. “They’re in their nineties,” he said.

The Hugheses didn’t appear to be home.

An Altamont Police patrol car drove by. The officer stopped and she asked if everyone was all right.

Hukey’s son-in-law then arrived in a red truck to take the dog.

“Branches fell on both sides of the garage,” said Hukey, “but didn’t hit the car.”

He was sad that a little blueberry tree he had been nurturing back to health had gotten hit but was glad his crabapple tree was spared.

The Guilderland Police put out a series of alerts, starting at about 4 p.m. about various road closures due to trees and wires being down.

Among them were Willow Street at Siver Road, Nott Road near Mountaindale Court, Becker Road between Route 158 and Dunnsville Road, Curry Road Extension near the Wildwood School with live wires in the roadway, and Veeder Road between Johnston and Walden’s Pond Road.

Also, between Route 146 and Willow Street, Route 20 was reduced to one lane eastbound and one lane westbound due to storm damage with National Grid on the scene. Police said at 6:29 p.m. that all lanes on Route 20 were open.

Guilderland canceled its 7 p.m. zoning board meeting because Town Hall, like large swaths in town, was without power.

On Thursday, National Grid reported that more than 1,700 line, tree and service workers in eastern New York continued to remove downed wires, trees, tree limbs, broken poles, and other hazards caused by the storm. 

“Crews worked through the night in challenging conditions and have restored service to nearly 75,000 of the more than 200,000 National Grid customers affected across the area,” said a noon press release from National Grid.

“This is one of the most damaging storms we have seen in eastern New York in a very long time,” said Matt Barnett, National Grid’s vice president of New York Electric Operations, in the release. Barnett noted that cleanup, reconstruction, and restoration will be labor-intensive and time consuming, with some outages in the hardest hit areas of eastern New York potentially extending beyond 48 hours.

Areas experiencing the most intense storm damage include Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Columbia and Montgomery counties.

Barnett added that hundreds of additional contractors would arrive Thursday and Friday to support the restoration efforts.

On Thursday afternoon, National Grid announced that it has set up centers to distribute dry ice and bottled water to customers still without electricity.

Local centers are in Troy, Schenectady, and Guilderland at Crossgates Mall. Distribution will take place at the Crossgates Mall parking lot near Macy’s on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 2 to 6 p.m.; on Friday, Oct. 9, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and on Saturday, Oct. 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Company personnel will provide information on the proper handling of dry ice, and customers are asked to bring a small cooler or shopping bag to transport their dry ice home.

Also on Thursday, the Guilderland Highway Department notified residents crews would pick up brush, branches, tree limbs, sticks, and other storm debris.

The debris, which need not be tied or bundled, should be placed in piles at the edge of lawns near the road but not in the road or near storm drains, the department said. Debris piles should be kept separate from leaf piles; leaves will be collected, as scheduled, beginning Oct. 13.

 

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