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Snowy, icy roads keep police busy

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    Mary Dempsey/Columbia-Greene MediaA snow plow clears Park Place in Hudson late Tuesday morning.
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    Mary Dempsey/Columbia-Greene MediaThe corner of Seventh and Warren streets in Hudson late Tuesday morning.
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    Sarah Trafton/Columbia-Greene MediaThe bridge on Route 67 in Freehold covered with light snow early Tuesday afternoon.
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    Sarah Trafton/Columbia-Greene Media Tuesday’s storm blanketed Sunny Hill Road in Freehold with fresh snow and continued through the late afternoon.
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    Lance Wheeler/for Columbia-Greene MediaA two-car accident on Route 23 in Greenport sent two people to area hospitals at about 11 a.m. Tuesday.
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    Lance Wheeler/for Columbia-Greene MediaEmergency personnel at the scene of a two-car accident on Route 23 in Greenport late Tuesday morning.
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    Courtesy of the National Weather Service in Albany
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    Mary Dempsey/Columbia-Greene MediaColumbia Street in Hudson was blanketed in fresh, light snow by 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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    Lance Wheeler/for Columbia-Greene MediaWarren Street in Hudson at about 10:40 a.m. Tuesday shortly after snow began to fall.
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    Mary Dempsey/Columbia-Greene MediaA plow clearing Columbia Street near Columbia Memorial Hospital shortly after the snow hit Hudson late Tuesday morning.
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    Mary Dempsey/Columbia-Greene Media Motorists drove cautiously down Warren Street in Hudson during Tuesday’s snowstorm.
February 12, 2019 03:19 pm Updated: February 12, 2019 10:46 pm


Tuesday’s snowstorm was expected to dump 8 to 10 inches of snow on the Twin Counties, which led to a treacherous evening commute, weather officials said.

Before Tuesday’s storm, the Capital Region had received 32.6 inches of snow this winter, said meteorologist Ray O’Keefe with the National Weather Service in Albany. The 30-year average is 39.8 inches of snowfall.

The National Weather Service in Albany did not have snowfall accumulations for the Twin Counties as of Tuesday evening.

Snow began just before 11 a.m. and intensified by the early afternoon with rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour, according to a statement from the National Weather Service.

Sleet and freezing rain were expected to begin late Tuesday afternoon, O’Keefe said.


Police were on alert in the region and cautioned drivers on the snowy, wet roads.

Two people were sent to area hospitals after a two-car crash on Route 23B in Greenport at 10:58 a.m.

One of the vehicles involved in the collision came to rest in the woods, New York State Police spokesman Trooper Aaron Hicks said. Hicks is stationed with the state police barracks in Troop K, which covers Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties.

Police did not have other details, including the names of passengers involved, as of press time Tuesday because the trooper who investigated the crash was patrolling the roads, Hicks said.

No other vehicle crashes in Columbia or Greene counties were reported to state police as of 12:30 p.m.

“For the most part, what we have been seeing is the roads have been pretty clear [of vehicles],” Nevel said.

“We’ll have extra patrols that will be out assisting motorists,” Hicks said.

State police advised drivers not to travel unless necessary, but to be prepared if they do.

“We’re advising people to stay in if they don’t have go out,” said state police Trooper Steven Nevel with Troop F, which covers Greene, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster counties. “If it is possible to leave work early, we would advise it.”

Police advised drivers to have a full tank of gas, a blanket, gloves, hats and boots in their vehicles to keep warm in the event of getting stranded, Hicks said.

“Keep up-to-date on the latest weather forecast,” Hicks added. “Clean all of your car windows completely — not just the windshield. Always make sure your vehicle fluid levels are replenished and make sure your spare tire is in working condition and jack and lug wrench are in your trunk.

“Use your headlights and drive prudently,” he continued. “If conditions are adverse due to ice and we are expected to get ice later on, brake early and don’t use cruise control.”


Cairo Highway Department was ready for Tuesday’s storm, superintendent Bob Hempstead said. 

“We have plenty of salt and sand,” he said, adding crews preemptively salted the roads Tuesday morning before the snow arrived 

This month’s warm-up, where temperatures reached the mid-40s to low 50s Feb. 4 and 5 makes plowing easier, Hempstead said. 

“We have plenty of room [to push snow],” he added. “It’s almost like starting fresh again.” 

All Twin County schools were closed Tuesday or closed early, which Hempstead said also benefits the highway department. 

Cairo does not enforce mandatory parking restrictions for residents, Hempstead said, but added officials prefer cars are parked in a driveway. The highway department has an agreement with the Cairo Fire District on Railroad Avenue for residents who do not have off-street parking to use a section of the fire house lot. 

“We’re as prepared as we can be,” he said. “It’s winter in the northeast — this is what you get. It just goes with the job and the territory.” 

Hudson Department of Public Works Superintendent Robert Perry cited various weather forecasts predicting 5 inches to 8 inches of snowfall for the city, but said the storm does not look like it will be significant.

“What falls is different from what accumulates,” Perry said. “In this instance, they forecast five hours of snow then changing to freezing rain and then rain. In any event, this isn’t a major storm.”

Perry expects to clear city streets and sidewalks throughout the snowstorm.

“Hudson is a tourist destination,” he said. “And with that reality comes the expectation that streets are cleared for visitors.”

Snow continued to fall heavily in the Twin Counties late Tuesday afternoon.

“Conditions aren’t great as expected,” Perry said. “After three or four storms, most people realize it’s better to stay off the roads and restrict nonessential traffic.”

In the heart of a snowstorm, Perry said his department’s job is a balancing act.

“The balance at this point is to clean the streets, but not so clear that the impending freezing rain has nothing to mix with,” he said.

This winter has been tough on resources for the city public works department, Perry said.

Last May, the department determined how much salt to purchase for the winter. The city bid for about 600 tons of salt in addition to 200 tons leftover from last winter.

The state Office of General Services requires municipalities to receive at least 70 percent of the salt it puts out to bid, but meeting that minimum has been tough over the past few years.

“Not this year,” Perry said. “Between the number of snow events and extreme swings in temperature we have already exceeded our 2019 forecast. We have already had 680 tons of salt delivered this season.”  

Columbia County Department of Public Works has about 8,000 tons of sand and 9,000 tons of salt stored in seven locations around the county, department Director Bernie Kelleher said.

“We are in pretty good shape to deal with [the storm],” Kelleher said Tuesday afternoon. “We have 29 trucks on the road right now and they will be out there until it’s all over.”

A light coating of snow covered the roads and conditions were slick around noon Tuesday, Kelleher said.

“It is going to get worse,” he said. “It always does before it gets better.”

Columbia County usually orders about 14,000 tons of salt and 6,000 tons of sand through the winter season in addition to leftover materials from the previous year.

“The sleet and freezing rain are what usually uses the most materials,” Kelleher said. “We are where we are normally around this time of the season.”

The area’s temperature fluctuations will have the most expensive price tag Kelleher said.

“The freeze and thaw cycles are raising havoc on the pavement,” Kelleher said. “That is going to be the expensive part of this season.”

Greene County’s highway department is in good shape for winter weather, Highway Superintendent Robert Van Valkenburg said. 

“We have plenty of sand and salt,” Van Valkenburg said. “We have used 60 percent of our allocation for the year, which runs through August.” 

The county’s total allocation is 5,885 tons. 

Highway crews have logged about 70 hours of overtime this year, Van Valkenburg said, adding that most of the extra hours were worked on the mountaintop where road conditions were worse.

As the storm persisted around 2 p.m. Tuesday, the county’s full force of highway workers were out cleaning the roads Van Valkenburg said.

“As the precipitation and the temperature increases we anticipate the roads will clean up quickly in the morning,” he said.

The village of Catskill was prepared and ready to go for Tuesday’s storm, Highway Superintendent Mike McGrath said.

“We keep everything on hand ahead of time,” he said. “Our trucks are suited up most of the year so we are set and ready to go.”

Tuesday’s storm was not expected to be a major undertaking for the department, McGrath said. 

“It’s not that big of a storm,” he said. “It’s just another day in the office.”

Parking restrictions play a critical part in plowing, McGrath added.

“If people work with us and obey the emergency parking rules, we’ll be fine,” he said.

parking restrictions

The village of Catskill declared a snow emergency for Tuesday’s storm. Catskill police advised residents of the parking restrictions on its Facebook page.

From 8 p.m. Tuesday until 8 a.m. Wednesday, cars are required to park on the odd side of village streets. Cars will alternate sides every 12 hours until the emergency is lifted, according to the statement. Parking is restricted on Main Street to allow for easier plowing. 

From 11 p.m. Tuesday until 8 a.m. Wednesday, no parking is permitted on Main Street from Green Street to Summit Avenue, according to Catskill police.

Hudson has not declared a snow emergency and regular parking rules remain in effect.