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Potsdam rebuilds after storm

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POTSDAM — Blue skies Wednesday held no trace of the devastating storm that tore through Potsdam the day before, 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 parts 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 restored to all customers by today.

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, 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,” Mickey Fiacco said Wednesday. Mr. Fiacco worked with cleanup crews on the restaurant and the Prosh Building, which also was condemned.

Owners of businesses that operate in the Prosh Building scrambled to cope with any damage to their stores. Many stores 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 the other store in Canton. Great Northern Printing rushed to save its inventory from flooding until the power came back on and workers could clean up the mess with shop vacuums. A sign at Main Street Barber Shop on Wednesday read “Closed today, opening tomorrow, maybe.”

Repairs have been swift. 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. 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.”

State 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.

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

“A lot of them ended up with friends. They were more comfortable with their family after what they’ve been through,” said Red Cross volunteer Peggy J. 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 today. So far, response has been limited.

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

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

Times staff writer Darren Ankrom contributed to this report.





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