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Winter’s first big storm on the way

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    Snow covers the ground in a wooded area in New Baltimore after the Nov. 15, 2018, storm. Meteorologists are predicting a foot or more of snow could fall in the Twin Counties this weekend.
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    Roads were slick after last November’s storm caused several minor accidents in the Twin Counties. A pick-up truck traveling south on Route 9H in Claverack slammed into an electric pole. Meteorologists predicted snowfall amounts of 9 inches or more this weekend.
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    Snowblowers on display in front of Lowe’s in Greenport.
January 17, 2019 05:40 pm Updated: January 18, 2019 10:46 am

The winter’s first big snowstorm is marching toward the Twin Counties this weekend, but some sleet and freezing rain could sneak in before it’s all said and done, meteorologists predicted Thursday.

A winter storm watch for the area has been posted from 4 p.m. Saturday until 7 p.m. Sunday.

“There is a potential for 9 inches or more,” said Joe Cebulko, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. “The heaviest snow will be late Saturday into Sunday morning.”

Although the storm is less than two days away, Cebulko said it’s too early to know what form it will take. “Warm air could change the snow to sleet or wet, heavy snow,” Cebulko said.

High temperatures Saturday and Sunday will be in the mid-20s, Cebulko said, dropping to the upper teens Saturday night.

“Sunday night into Monday will be very cold with lows below zero,” Cebulko said.

Overnight temperatures will range from minus-8 to 0 and wind chills will be brutal, Cebulko said. Wind-chill temperatures will be minus-30 to minus-15 over the higher terrains.

“It will be gusty, with high winds of 30 miles per hour Sunday afternoon into evening,” Celbuko said.

The high winds will cause the snow to drift into roads and reduce visibility for drivers, he said.

“Travel may be very difficult or close to impossible overnight,” Cebulko said.

The weather service is not forecasting a high number of power outages at this time because the snow is expected to light and powdery instead of heavy and moisture-laden, Cebulko said.

The region has been experiencing a relatively light winter so far, according to measurements taken at the Albany weather station, Cebulko said.

“We are well below our typical amount [of snow],” he said. “Since Dec. 1, we’ve had 3.4 inches when our average is 23.1 inches.

Cairo Highway Superintendent Bob Hempstead is prepared for the storm.

“Our sand and salt mix containers are all filled,” he said. “We have more salt being brought in. Mechanics are looking over our equipment. We’re as ready as we can be.”

The lack of snowfall is a plus to road crews, Hempstead said.

“We are starting out with a clean slate,” he said. “Everything is clear. We have plenty of places to push the snow. And the ground is frozen so we don’t have to worry about getting a vehicle stuck.”

There are no parking restrictions on Main Street in Cairo during snowstorms, Hempstead said.

Keeping the roads in tip-top shape is a team effort.

“It’s like any battle — it’s all about logistics and the kind of manpower you have,” Hempstead said.

Hudson Department of Public Works Superintendent Rob Perry is keeping a watch on the weather as well.

“Some reports say over a foot, others say well under,” he said. “It makes a difference in how to manage it. We want to have enough guys to make sure roads are open but not have so many out that they get burned out. After the storm is over, we still have to do cleanup.”

Perry advised Hudson residents to keep an eye on the city’s website for a snow emergency declaration.

“If your car is parked on a city street, check for special signage directing you to move your car,” he said.

The upcoming storm may bring some unique challenges because it falls on the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Perry said.

“We will have people coming that are not familiar with the area and our policies,” Perry said. “We are relying on innkeepers to inform their patrons. It’s a community effort to make sure the storm has the least amount of impact.”

Road crews always put safety first, Perry said.

“We want to keep everything open so emergency vehicles can get through,” Perry said. “Our primary goal is public safety.”