Preparing for the worst: Residents stock up for major winter storm PDF Print E-mail
Written by By SAUL G. FERRER, Staff Writer   
Sunday, January 03, 1999

Traumatized by last year's disastrous ice storm, North Country consumers were in a full-blown buying frenzy Saturday following word of today's expected snow storm.

Stores' stocks of basic food and heating supplies dwindled as residents snatched what they could.

Adding to the panic: the ice storm's first anniversary is this Wednesday.

The 1998 storm claimed five lives locally, caused millions of dollars in damage and left about 400,000 people in northern New York without electricity.

With up to 9 inches of snow and sleet expected, both county officials and residents were preparing for the worst Saturday.

Getting ready

"No one wants to be caught off guard again," said Jim Keysor, a West Plattsburgh homeowner.

Keysor was running around the area Saturday buying up candles, batteries and food in anticipation for what he said could be an encore of 1998.

Attorney Frank Zappala was with his son, also buying up fuel and food.

"You get hit once, you learn not to get hit again," he said.

"Everyone's worried," said Joseph Alix, a manager of True Value Hardware in Plattsburgh.

Several hardware stores were cleaned out of fuel cans, heating supplies, and snow-removal equipment.

"After last year, people are scared," Alix said. "And why not? No one wants this to happen."

Maureen Hunter said she expects a blizzard, but is not concerned about another ice storm.

"Last year was an oddity. It's statistically impossible to have something of that magnitude slam into us a second time so soon."

The Keeseville woman and her family were in Hannaford Foods supermarket on a regular grocery run.

They came back from a holiday trip to South Carolina, where ice storms ravaged the south.

"At the worst, maybe a blizzard."

Resident Carl Payne said he doesn't expect another ice storm, just heavy snow.

"Last year was rare."

He and his family were stocking up Saturday to avoid traveling on snow-covered roads today.

Individually, few residents admitted concern about another devastating ice storm.

But empty shelves in hardware shops, department stores and supermarkets showed otherwise.

"It's pretty wild here," said Steve Williams, assistant manager of Hannaford Foods.

By early Saturday, the store sold 200 gallons of bottled water, more than five times its usual business for a full day.

An employee at Grand Union in Ticonderoga said the store "has been hammered" as residents grabbed milk, bread and any supplies they considered essential.

"They're preparing for a siege," said Don Brown, a manager at Wal-Mart in Plattsburgh.

Among its depleted supplies, the store has ordered additional blankets, toilet paper, and pet products to keep up with the demand.

"People don't know when they're going to get out next.

"Another ice storm or not, most people were impacted hard and want to be ready this time."

Crews on alert

As residents prepare for an icy Armageddon, municipalities Saturday were keeping vigil on the storm.

"We weren't too concerned until we heard about the sleet and ice," said James King, director of Clinton County Office of Emergency Preparedness.

King and emergency services directors in Essex and Franklin counties have been tracking the storm since it hit the West Coast Monday.

A meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt. forecast up to 9 inches of snow by noon today, covered by at least 2 inches of sleet.

King and directors Ray Thatcher (Essex County) and Elton Cappiello (Franklin County) said they have fire, medical and crisis personnel on standby and would open their shelters, if needed.

Thatcher said he's heard of the rush to buy supplies. He agrees people should be prepared.

"This has the potential to be a major storm. Obviously, we hope otherwise."

The state Department of Transportation has put employees on alert. Should the storm pummel the region, workers will be expected to work 12-hour shifts.

Utility companies are also on standby.

Officials at Niagara Mohawk and New York State Electric and Gas have reported crews are on standby, although only isolated power outages are expected.

In the City of Plattsburgh, Mayor Clyde Rabideau said his crews are ready for a potential crisis. A citywide parking ban is also possible, depending on the severity of the storm.



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