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High winds, lake effect snow whip through region Thursday

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Winter is back with a vengeance.

Whipping winds and lake-effect snow created dangerous driving conditions and school closures throughout the region Thursday, just a day after temperatures cracked an all-time high for the date in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.

Wind speed was reported as high as 54 mph.

More than 15 schools closed or dismissed students early because of the weather.

“I drove out in it at a quarter to five,” Copenhagen Central School District Superintendent Scott N. Connell said. “Around Burrville, it got pretty bad.”

Copenhagen was one of the few schools that canceled classes at the beginning of the day. The district covers 125 square miles, and Mr. Connell said he is often concerned about weather and driving conditions even when the weather at the school is not too bad.

Indian River Central School District already had planned to dismiss students at noon for teacher training, Superintendent James Kettrick said. The training continued as scheduled.

“We stopped having sunshine only 15 minutes ago,” Mr. Kettrick said about 11 a.m. Thursday.

LaFargeville Central School District Superintendent Susan L. Whitney had students on buses by 1 p.m.

“I decided that, with the high winds and the snow coming, that we’d rather be safe than sorry,” she said.

The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority lifted its travel restriction at 1 p.m., meaning that was the earliest that LaFargeville students who live on Wellesley Island could go home.

Southbound vehicles planning to hop on Interstate 81 at exit 45 in Watertown were met with orange traffic cones from just after 1 p.m. until just after 2 p.m. A road closure notification issued by the Jefferson County Office of Fire and Emergency Management said all traffic was rerouted, sending traffic onto Old Rome State Road from Route 3 before hitting I-81 at exit 44.

“There’s a band of pretty heavy lake-effect snow over Jefferson and Lewis counties,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Hitchcock, Buffalo, said Thursday.

He said the band should have moved south by early this morning, but some of the lake-effect snow in Oswego County may clip southern Lewis County.

He predicted snowfall to range from 5 to 9 inches in Jefferson County and 7 to 14 inches in Lewis County.

“The highest totals will be in the southern part of (Lewis) county,” he said.

Temperatures will continue to drop into the weekend. More lake-effect snow is expected Saturday when the band returns.

The weather was looking much different just the day before, however.

Mr. Hitchcock said the record high of 62 degrees “shattered” 2006’s record of 52 degrees in Watertown.

In Massena, the mercury rose to 63 degrees, breaking 1988’s record of 49 degrees.

“It was a pretty significant record,” said Brooke O. Tabor, National Weather Service meteorologist in Burlington, Vt. “It’s very unusual to have the temperature we had on one day, then a strong cold front the next.”

He noted that the gusty southwestern winds took down tree limbs and power lines in St. Lawrence County.

Snow showers are predicted for the remainder of the week.

“We’re back to normal winter conditions,” Mr. Tabor said. “Temperatures will probably be in the teens (Friday) and below zero for Saturday.”

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