REGION Ė As the reports of "snowmageddons" and "snowpocalypses" hitting the east coast have remained constant over the last several weeks, the mid-Hudson region has gotten away relatively unscathed ó until now, of course.
According to Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, the nor'easter that swept its way through the area on Tuesday left approximately 85,000 customers without power. The company warned its customers "who live in hardest-hit areas, particularly those in remote locations, that they may be without power for several days and that they should make alternate arrangements for shelter."
"So far this is comparable to the ice storm in 2008, but complicating this storm is the arrival of a second storm forecasted to impact our region tomorrow [Thursday] into Friday," said John Maserjian, Central Hudson's director of media relations on Wednesday morning. "At this point, we are in what we call damage assessment mode, where our crews and other employees are actually out in the field, looking at the damage, and developing a strategy on how we're going to be restoring service in the fastest and safest amount of time."
The northern and northwestern parts of Central Hudson's service area were hardest hit by the storm. As of Wednesday afternoon, the company said that 30,000 customers in Ulster County were without power, while Dutchess and Columbia counties were suffering 33,000 outages. Greene County had 16,000 customer power outages, while 7,000 of its Orange County customers were still in the dark.
According to the Ellenville Fire Department, a total of eight transformers exploded during the evening's storms, leading to the widespread outages.
"Pretty much everybody in the Village of Ellenville was without power until this morning, but half of the people are still out of power," said Ellenville's assistant fire chief Jody Krom on Wednesday morning.
The Ulster County chapter of the American Red Cross opened up its overnight shelter at the Kerhonkson Firehouse on Wednesday to assist those left without power from the storms. Thankfully, as of press time, there have been no reported injuries as a result of the weather, but the Town of Wawarsing's highway crew has been working around the clock since the first heavy flurries began to fall on Tuesday morning.
"The last couple days have been hectic," said Highway Superintendent Tony Paes on Wednesday at around noon. "We came in yesterday [Tuesday] morning at 4 a.m., and we left here at, I think it was 9:30Ö. I got a telephone call at 11:35 that there were trees on Continental Road, so we came back, I took a little ride around, and I ended up bringing the guys back to work here at 1 o'clock this morning. And we've been going ever since.
"I don't like keeping these guys out that late. They've got to have some downtime. You get them out there too long a time, things happen, accidents happen. And I don't want accidents to happen," added Paes, who said that many of his workers would be resting up on Wednesday to prepare for the coming storm predicted for Thursday and Friday. Paes also said that the main project for the crew was cleaning trees and downed power lines off the roads across town.
Central Hudson's Maserjian discussed how the company is preparing for the storm predicted for the coming days by seeking assistance outside the area.
"We've contracted with about 30 electric contract crews, and 30 line clearance crews from private companies to assist in our restoration efforts," he said, adding that Central Hudson's storm budget contingency fund will pay for the independent contractors. "We're also reaching out to utilities in the south and west to see if they have crews available to assist us, although at this point they may be concerned about the storm that will be arriving tomorrow and Friday, so we may not hear back from them until they have a clear understanding of how that weather will impact their regions."
So far, it seems, the customers served by Orange & Rockland Utilities (O&R) may have dodged the bullet that hit Central Hudson's patrons. Mike Donovan, a spokesman for O&R, said on Wednesday that Orange County had only a handful of outages. He did say, however, that Sullivan County was hit much harder, with approximately 5,500 losing power, 500 of which were in the Town of Mamakating.
"The further north you go in our service territory, the worse it gets," Donovan said.
He said that the company pulled all available field employees into the affected area, and that they will be working overtime to return service to those customers who are without power. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, power should be back no later than midnight Wednesday night. Donovan also said that O&R is doing everything it can to prep for the next storm (due on Thursday) by prepositioning supplies that could be needed by field crews.
As for Wednesday's storm, Donovan said that crews were, for a time, finding it difficult to reach certain areas, as the number of downed trees made navigating the roads in Sullivan County particularly difficult.
"It was the trees that really killed us," he said. "We had a lot of big pine trees down."
Donovan said that crews, as they are repairing damaged portions of the system, were also doing drive-by inspections looking for other potential problems, such as low-hanging tree limbs. He said that the lack of heavy, wet snow this season means that there were, and perhaps still are, a lot of weakened limbs that are poised to come down.
He also said that O&R is keeping its fingers crossed that the Thursday storm turns out to be less severe than predicted.
"It's the only time that we don't object to [the weather forecast] being wrong," he said.