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Winter’s not over yet; Snow makes a return visit

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MASSENA - Approximately one month removed from temperatures that approached 80 degrees in late March, the north country was hit by a winter storm that came well after many people thought winter was over.

While the storm may have caught many off guard, New York State Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Michael R. Flick said it didn’t take long for their crews to get ready.

“By the early morning hours, we had 24 of the 28 trucks out and plowing,” Mr. Flick said, adding crews in St. Lawrence County were reporting to work at 2 a.m.

“They were pretty much all out the door by 4:30 a.m.,” he said.

It was a similar challenge for local highway departments as they made a quick switch back to winter mode from their spring work to remove two to three inches of slushy snow from the roadways.

“We had two trucks ready to go. We had to put a plow back on one of our trucks and a plow and sander on another truck. Everything was rocking and rolling by 5:30 a.m.,” Stockholm Highway Superintendent Jeff P. Russell said. “I think some other towns were in worse shape than we were.”

Mr. Flick said the storm did present some challenges, but he noted dealing with equipment today is a lot easier than it was 10 or 20 years ago.

“April 15 is our official end to the snow and ice part of the season,” he said. “We start taking plows and boxes off of the trucks and then they go in for fleet maintenance.”

But with the 15th falling on a Sunday, Mr. Flick said many trucks were still equipped and ready to go as soon as workers arrived.

“There were a few trucks we had to put the plows back on, but that only takes about half an hour,” he said.

While the county saw several cars sliding off the road, commuters for the most part reached their Monday morning destinations without any major problems, as no injuries were reported as a result of the morning’s accidents.

“People all of a sudden think it’s spring and they can go back to driving 55 miles per hour. When we do get snow in the spring, it’s usually wet and slushy and therein lies the problem,” Mr. Flick said.

Spring storms, he said tend to clean up faster and easier than their winter month counterparts.

“Once the sun does comes out, it usually doesn’t take long for the surface temperature to rise and melt whatever snow or slush may be left.”

One of the day’s few two vehicle accidents took place on state Route 37 at Main Street in Massena.

Frederick Toomey Sr., 74, of Massena was turning left onto Route 37 from South Main Street when a large patch of snow slid onto his windshield, partially obstructing his view.

Massena Village Police said he then followed another car through a flashing red light into the path of a tractor trailer that was westbound on state Route 37.

Police ticketed Mr. Toomey for failure to yield the right of way. Neither he or Robert T. VanWagner, 60, of Tivoli, he driver of the tractor trailer, were injured in the collision.

Police and fire crews also credit several one-vehicle property damage accidents to the storm. In Gouverneur, a snow plow overturned on Route 58 and near Ogdensburg a tractor trailer slid off the road on Route 68. State police said they have not heard of an injury accident reported.

The storm, which led to the snow days and delays for students across St. Lawrence County also led to the cancellation of many of the day’s high school sporting events.

“It will require, at least in the sports of baseball and softball, a lot of double-headers,” said Section X Director Carl R. Normandin, who explained those games will likely be made up later in the season when the teams were scheduled to meet for a second time.

In lacrosse and golf, sports where doubleheaders simply aren’t feasible, the cancellation of so many games makes trying to get everything rescheduled a challenge.

“It will certainly make things tighter, especially in boys’ and girls’ lacrosse and golf,” he said.

The challenges could keep growing with the forecast calling for a week’s worth of wet and cold weather. “When you lose one day that’s one thing, but when you lose four or five days in a row that’s when things become really problematic,” he said, adding that was the case last year when it seemed like there was rain almost every day.

The timing of the storm was especially ironic in Massena, where Monday marked the beginning of the village’s annual spring cleanup.

“We were getting ready for our spring cleanup, but with the two to three inches of snow we had to redirect our focus for the day,” Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad said. “We spent all morning cleaning up the roads.”

Once the village streets were clean though, Mr. Fayad said crews began their work on the spring cleanup, which is continuing this week as scheduled.

“The problem is all the stuff, especially couches and things like that, that people are putting out is saturated with water,” he said, making the items not only heavier but in turn more expensive to dispose of since tipping fees are based on weight.

“We’re paying for water,” he said.

Monday’s storm led to the cancellation of school for students in Potsdam, Norwood-Norfolk, Madrid-Waddington, Canton, Lisbon, Edwards-Knox, Gouverneur and Hermon-DeKalb.

Students at Massena, St. Lawrence Central, Parishville-Hopkinton, Colton-Pierrepont, Salmon River, Brushton-Moira, St. Regis Falls, Ogdensburg, Clifton-Fine, Heuvelton and Morristown were each treated to a two-hour delay. Hammond Central School opened 90 minutes late.

While the National Weather Service’s forecast doesn’t look great for the remainder of the week, school will likely be back in session today and should be for the remainder of the week barring another surprise from Mother Nature.

For today the NWS is calling for a high of 49 and low of 36 with a 60 percent chance of rain. For Wednesday they’re predicting a high of 49, low of 35 and 50 percent change of rain.

Snow may re-enter the picture again Thursday, as the NWS is predicting a high of 51, low of 31 and 60 percent chance of “rain or snow.” For Friday, they’re calling for a 30 percent chance of snow with a high of 47 and low of 28 expected.

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