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Fri., Sep. 4
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Potsdam rebuilds after storm


POTSDAM — Blue skies held no trace of the devastating storm that tore through Potsdam on Tuesday, but the damage was evident everywhere as the village began to rebuild.

Four streets were closed Wednesday as workers replaced damaged poles to restore power to thousands affected by the storm. Bay and State streets were closed, as were part of Main and Lower Pine. Eleven utility poles on Bay Street alone needed to be replaced.

By Wednesday evening, hundreds in the village were still without power. All roads should be open and power should be restored to all customers by Thursday.

Three buildings were condemned after the storm, including the Delta Zeta sorority building on Maple Street, which was smashed by a large falling tree. Village officials have not yet heard from the building’s owner.

The roof of Sergi’s Italian Restaurant, on Market Street, was torn off during the storm. Workers have erected a temporary roof and cleaned up most of the debris.

“We started last night and worked until midnight, then we were out here first thing,” said Mickey Fiacco, who worked with cleanup crews on the restaurant and the Prosh building, which was also condemned.

Business owners who operate out of the Prosh building scrambled to cope with any damage to their stores. Many did not suffer structural damage, but were closed because of power outages.

Workers from Billy’s Deli loaded meat, cheese and other perishables into their cars to transport them to their other store in Canton. Great Northern Printing rushed to save their inventory from flooding until the power came back on and they could clean up the mess with Shop-Vacs. A sign on Main Street Barbers read “Closed today, opening tomorrow, maybe.”

Repairs have been swift. Power should be restored and most businesses in the building should be ready to open within the next day or two.

“They are already starting to work on repairs for the Prosh building, which was condemned, so that will be open for business before too awful long,” said Village Administrator David H. Fenton.

For the parts of the village where the damage has been less severe, things are largely business as usual.

Even though the roof of the store is sitting in the middle of the Raquette River, Evans & White Ace Hardware has remained open for business. The first floor was undamaged by the storm, although the second floor, home of the BirchBark Book Shop, will be unusable until repairs are complete.

“People need us, and we’re not that bad off,” said owner John P. White. “Everything’s going to be fixed, and we’re going to keep on going.”

Department of Transportation officials studied the large pile of debris in the river to decide the best way to remove it.

“We’re trying to get the river level lowered a bit,” Mr. Fenton said.

Once the river has dropped, boats with hooks will be able to drag the debris pile to the edge, where it can be removed.

The Red Cross set up a shelter in Norwood-Norfolk Central School after the storm on Tuesday night for those displaced by the storm. Although several people showed up, only one spent the night.

“A lot of them ended up with friend. They were more comfortable with their family after what they’ve been through,” said Red Cross volunteer Peggy Sepko. Other Red Cross volunteers stood outside Arlington Inn Apartments in the Prosh building to let any returning residents know that shelter was available.

The shelter will remain open until noon Thursday. So far response has been limited.

“Currently the population of the shelter is zero,” said Red Cross emergency services manager Kelly E. Hecker.

State Senators Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton visited the village to meet with officials and survey the damage.

Cooperation between many different groups led to the swift repair of most areas, Mr. Ritchie said.

“That’s the way it should work, and I think that’s why they were able to get things back online as quickly as they did. In some areas, there’s not even a sign of what the damage was,” he said.

Staff writer Darren Ankrom contributed to this report.

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