Storm causes widespread damage, power outages

B y Jaime Thomas

It’s not often a storm causes Gary Seitz to consider taking refuge in his basement, but last Wednesday’s squall had him thinking about it.

Not only did two, large 150-foot pine trees fall down in his yard, but the strong wind even made its way into his house on Route 149 in Hartford.

“The most notable thing was in one of the corner rooms. One gust of wind got under the barn board siding, and the whole shelving got knocked down,” Seitz said. He said this is the strongest storm he’s seen on his property, which is usually buffeted by all the tall trees, in a decade and one of the top three in his 35 years there.

“It was the sound that was the freaky part. It was a sound like a vacuum cleaner, but it didn’t last long. We had the doors dead bolted, but they were still vibrating from the strong wind,” he said.

It’s the general consensus of area residents that Wednesday’s storm was strong. The national weather service reported wind gusts of over 60 mph during the storm, and a number of local officials said it was the strongest storm they’ve seen in a while.

“Besides Irene, I have not seen a storm like this come in. It was a very intense storm,” said Granville Fire Chief Ryan Pedone. He said between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., the department took 18 calls, an unusually high number.

Though the crew was initially called to help Hartford, which was hit first, it was unable to make it as Route 149 was impassable.

Pedone said that stretch of road was the worst he saw during the storm; there were huge trees down, lines down and trees partially across lanes. To attempt to get to other, higher priority calls, firefighters had to cut the trees and move them to the side of the road.

Immediately following the storm were widespread power outages—approximately 4,000 residents of Washington County lost power—and sections of Routes 40 and 196 in Argyle and Hartford were closed.

“It came through extremely fast and hit us hard and quick,” said John Tanner, Granville’s highway superintendent.

He said his crews had to cut a number of large trees blocking roadways, in order to open them up, and spent the entire next day starting at 6 a.m. cleaning up its aftermath. He also said there was quite a problem on DeKalb Road, where a pole had snapped in half and had to be replaced and its wires reconnected.

Pedone said it took his crew two and a half hours to make Route 149 passable, and his department was still taking calls the next afternoon. He said the public did not seem to realize the extent of the hazardous conditions he and his crews were dealing with.

“The biggest thing you run into is people come to where you have it blocked off, and they get very, very upset and irate,” he said.

In the village, Superintendent Dan Williams said the department of public works didn’t receive any calls during the storm; their biggest issue was a loss of power that lasted from six to nine hours.

“We used a generator for the wastewater treatment plant and rotated two air compressors between the four different sewer pump stations, so we didn’t have a backup,” Williams said.

In Hartford, which was one of the hardest-hit local towns, school was closed the following day due to lack of power.

Hartford Fire Chief Brian Jones said his department took 20 calls in a 20-hour period, an extremely high number, and most dealt with downed power lines and trees. One tree even caught on fire, but it was not considered a threat. The town highway department was on hand throughout the night to help the cause.

“I have not seen a storm of that magnitude in my 30 years,” Jones said.

The storm was extremely localized with Granville, Hartford and Salem experiencing the brunt of the storm. Points north and south avoided the worst of the storm.

Louie Pratt, Whitehall Highway superintendent, said a half dozen trees fall in the south east part of the community near Hatch Hill and Tanner Hill Roads, but the rest of the town emerged unscathed.

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