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Jefferson County emerging from snowstorm paralysis

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CANTON - Jefferson and Lewis Counties are largely reopening for business today after a lake-effect storm paralyzed the area with nearly three feet of snow in Watertown from Monday night to Wednesday afternoon.

The storm has lingered longer — and dropped nearly double the amount of snow — than was originally forecast. It was expected finally to pass by today, but not before another blast Wednesday night that was to bring 8 to 12 more inches in parts of Jefferson County, reducing visibility at times to a quarter mile.

When the storm was first projected to hit the area, about two feet of snow was expected for Watertown and nearly six feet for Tug Hill. While the plateau came close to that original prediction, the city has seen double the original forecast. A lake-effect snow warning issued for Jefferson and Lewis Counties was originally in effect until 1 p.m. Wednesday, until continuing severe conditions prompted the advisory to be extended until 6 a.m. today.

Witness accounts from Carthage reported snowfall amounts comparable to those in Watertown, while residents of Adams received approximately 28 inches of snow as of Wednesday afternoon, according to witness accounts.

With the 3-5 inches originally projected in Watertown for Wednesday extending up to two feet, roads and schools across the area were closed.

Schools from as far north as St. Lawrence County down to Sandy Creek, in Oswego County, were delayed, closed, or dismissed early at least once this week. For many schools in the area, such as the Watertown City School District, the school dismissed classes early Monday and closed on Tuesday or Wednesday. There is no word on any school closings for today, as of 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Even if schools and businesses will be open, some operations are still affected by the storm. Many residents will have to wait an extra day for garbage pickup. Municipal pickup in Watertown and Dexter has been delayed one day, and private trash removal companies have also experienced delays of at least one day.

Interstate 81 fully reopened at 2 p.m. Wednesday, after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered it closed Monday night. During part of the storm, the highway was closed from the Canadian border south into Onondaga County.

With Interstate 81 closed, traffic was diverted onto Route 11 in Adams. This proved difficult, as numerous tractor trailers were unable to make it over the snow-covered hills in the town. Several trucks went off the road,creating gridlock that shut down Route 11. The road was reopened Wednesday afternoon.

“They were put on Route 11 and they can’t see,” said Robert D. Simpson, public information officer for the Adams Fire Department. “They can’t move in the snow.”

Mr. Simpson estimated about 3 feet of snow fell between about 11 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Numerous automobile accidents and disabled vehicles were reported. According to state police records, three accidents, one each in the towns of Adams, Orleans and Watertown, resulted in eight injuries. Police said those injured were taken to Samaritan Medical Center, but no information on their condition was available Wednesday evening.

For the first time this week, flights are expected to resume at Watertown International Airport this afternoon. The airport reported that the 7:20 a.m. American Eagle departing flight has been canceled.

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