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Canadian towns take hurricane in stride

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CANTON - While municipalities across St. Lawrence County were declaring states of emergency and closing schools early Monday in advance of Hurricane Sandy, their counterparts on the other side of the St. Lawrence River were taking a more sanguine approach.

“It’s a little breezy,” Sara Lee, administrative coordinator for Brockville Fire Department, said hours after St. Lawrence County had already sent its workers home. “When we see it is getting bad, we will do something. We wait for the actual event to happen.”

The worst of the winds were not expected until Monday evening so there did not seem much reason to shut everything down ahead of that, said Randy M. Helmer, chief administrative officer for the town of Prescott.

“We’re not sending folks home early,” he said. “We’re monitoring it.”

Mr. Helmer said Canadians have learned from several recent events, including the 1998 ice storm, to put their trust in being ready.

“It’ not that we’re being nonchalant,” Mr. Helmer said. “We’ve taken better steps to prepare.”

With the generators prepped and a system set up to keep watch on the storm’s progress, there was no need to do more until the winds arrived, he said.

In Cornwall, city fathers activated an emergency plan that kept essential personnel available so they could be called in, according to Bradley C. Nuttley, emergency management and community safety coordinator.

“We are on alert and getting ourselves ready if conditions worsen,” he said.

Mr. Helmer said he would not presume to tell another community how it should react.

“Even with the different weather forecasts, there’s a lot of discrepancy,” he said.

No Canadian community near St. Lawrence County had declared states of emergency, which require permission from the provincial government. Some St. Lawrence County officials said the declarations were made so that the cost of preparations for the storm could be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to err on the side of caution.

The same financial arrangement does not apply in Canada, Mr. Nuttley said. States of emergency are sometimes declared in advance of an event if it could overwhelm local resources and affect lives, property and the environment.

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