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Hurricane Sandy, hundreds of miles away, gives north country pre-halloween scream

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CANTON - Though states of emergency were declared, damage was minimal throughout St. Lawrence County Monday night.

Hurricane Sandy blew ashore 500 miles south of St. Lawrence County, but whipping winds were felt throughout the area Monday night thanks to the storm’s extensive wind fields.

Craig C. Ballard, deputy director of St. Lawrence County Emergency Services, said his office received no calls of complaints Monday night, though as of 10 p.m. there were sporadic reports of trees down.

“They’ve all been taken care off,” he said. “Our problems are well under control.”

Mr. Ballard said he expected the worst of the winds to occur during the early morning hours.

The SUNY Potsdam campus lost power around 7 p.m. Monday. Workers restored power almost three hours later, as the winds strengthened.

National Grid reported that 311 customers in Jefferson County and 268 customers in St. Lawrence County lost power by 10 p.m. Monday as Hurricane Sandy swept through the north country.

Most of the power outages in St. Lawrence County were concentrated in the Potsdam area, as 239 customers were reported without power.

By 9 p.m. Monday, about 5,800 customers were without power in National Grid’s central New York region, which includes the north country and extends south to Syracuse. About 17,300 customers lost coverage in the provider’s eastern region, and 4,700 in the western area.

To view National Grid’s power outage map, which is updated every 15 minutes, visit https://www1.nationalgridus.com/OutageCentral.

In Canton, a fire that started due to the malfunction of a transformer on an electricity pole 8:15 p.m. Monday at a field near 181 Wrights Road in the village was extinguished by the time firefighters arrived on the scene.

The Canton Fire Department arrived about 10 minutes after the incident after receiving a call from the St. Lawrence County Sheriff Department. The incident, which was reported to National Grid, did not result in power outages or danger to the public.

In Ogdensburg, as of 10:30 there were no reports of trees down or power outages, according to Fire Department officials.

The Massena Fire and Police Departments reported no significant damage or power outages as of 11 p.m. Monday. In Potsdam, several tree limbs were spotted near the side streets surrounding SUNY Potsdam.

Dan Johnstone, a SUNY Potsdam senior, said a friend of his was unable to find his way out of the Crane School of Music during the power outage because emergency lights hadn’t turned on. He went in with a flashlight to find his friend, he said.

Mr. Johnstone said the power may go out again later Monday night.

“We’ve been told the storm is going to get worse and that we should be alert through next morning,” he said.

Potsdam Fire Chief Timothy Jerome said the village had not yet dealt with any major damage by late Monday evening.

“We are more likely to have that stuff around 3 a.m. when it’s supposed to hit harder,” he said.

Throughout the day on Monday, municipalities, businesses and agencies prepared for the storm.

Typically, the greatest threat during hurricanes is the flooding, but northern New York was expected to avoid the heaviest rain. Mr. Mitchell predicted no more than 1.5 inches in Jefferson and Lewis counties, and less than a half-inch in St. Lawrence County.

Instead, the region readied for heavy winds.

Meteorologist Jim A. Mitchell of the National Weather Service in Buffalo predicted widespread power outages because of downed trees caused by sustained winds of 35 to 50 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph Monday night. Because trees in the area are used to withstanding a western wind, it does not take much for root structure to be weakened from northeasterly winds, he said.

SUNY Canton warned of the potential for ‘massive power outages’, and asked those on campus to curtail their travel Monday afternoon and evening.

St. Lawrence University cancelled Monday evening graduate-level classes.

Canton, Norwood and Lisbon declared a state of emergency. Canton’s and Lisbon’s declarations are in effect until Friday.

The public hearing on the Canton town budget scheduled for Monday has been rescheduled to 6 p.m. Nov. 8. It will be preceded by the board’s regular monthly meeting at 4 p.m. in the Canton municipal building, 60 Main St.

St. Lawrence County closed all non-essential offices at 2 p.m., Budget review sessions scheduled for Monday evening were postponed.

North country universities cancelled classes and travel ahead of Hurricane Sandy’s impact Monday evening.

SUNY Potsdam cancelled all evening classes for Monday due to inclement weather conditions.

SUNY Potsdam advised faculty, staff and students to take caution when deciding whether to travel in inclement weather. The College is also advising residential students to be on alert for potential high winds, strong rain and possible power outages.

Nantucket-based airline Cape Air cancelled all north country flights for Monday and Tuesday ahead of Hurricane Sandy’s impact. The carrier serves Massena, Ogdensburg and Saranac Lake. All of Cape Air’s flights in the mid-Atlantic and New England regions were cancelled.

Watertown Daily Times Staff Writers Ted Booker, Reena Signh and Martha Ellen and Johnson Newspapers reporters Brian Hayden and Susan Mende contributed to this report.

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