Midwest digs out: Conditions treacherous, but not what was expected PDF Print E-mail
Written by By MATT SMITH, Staff Writer   
Monday, January 04, 1999

You call that a storm?

Sure, the weather was pretty ugly Sunday.

Messy? You bet. Icy? Without a doubt. Even treacherous at times.

But that major winter storm the weather gods warned of — the one that sent North Country residents running for cover Saturday — the one in which meteorologists predicted 9 inches of snow ... well, it never came.

So what happened?

You can thank, (or blame, depending on what side of the issue you're on) that warm southern air.

"You saw more sleet and freezing rain than snow, thanks to warm air that was aloft from the south," said a meteorologist Sunday evening at the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt.

"The storm system that moved in came from the west and that allowed for streams of warm air to move in from the south and melt any precipitation."

So, another ice storm or northeaster, this wasn't.

Still, while not living up to its billing, the rainy weather did bring with it a fair share of problems.

Route 73 between Lake Placid and Keene, for instance, was closed for more than three hours Sunday morning due to severe ice, which made driving potentially life threatening.

The highway was reopened around 1 p.m., but even after that, the lane of travel into the Olympic Village was coated with thick slushy ice, forcing motorists to exercise extreme caution.

Meanwhile, in Lake Placid, which is hosting the Key Bank International Winter Sports Festival, Olympic Regional Development Authority officials were not only anticipating a good belt of snow, they were looking forward to it.

Instead, ORDA was forced to postpone one of the festival's major events — the L.L. Bean Biathlon World Team Trials — for the second time in less than a week.

The three-day event, set originally to start Dec. 29, has been at the mercy of Mother Nature.

A lack of snow made for a less-than-desirable race course at Mt. VanHoevenberg last week, forcing ORDA to delay the start of the competition.

And though the authority was able to stage the first day of the event Saturday, the trials were again postponed on Sunday because of the rain.

The competition will resume at 10 this morning, ORDA officials said.

Elsewhere in Lake Placid, Village Police reported scattered power outages, some downed trees and a few disabled vehicles. However, there was no serious damage.

Jamie Rich, who was strolling along Main Street in the village, didn't mind the weather Sunday.

Rich, who was in town from New England vacationing, said she was enjoying the warmer temperatures.

"It was too cold yesterday," she said. "I was skiing, and it was a bit too frigid for my tastes. This is more like it."

Indeed, Saturday was bitter. Whiteface Mountain Ski Center reported a base temperature of -7 degrees and -10 degrees at the summit.

Sunday afternoon, meanwhile, temperatures were in the 30s.

Speaking of the slopes, in Beekmantown, the weather has been wreaking havoc on Beartown Ski Area.

A lack of snow kept skiers off the hill until Saturday, about one month later than the usual season opening.

A day later the ski area was shut down because of Sunday's freezing-rain storm.

"We closed because we were concerned about the roads," said Allen Pellerin, president of Beartown Board of Directors.

"The hill conditions were questionable as it was, and we're trying to save what snow we have."

Beartown is expected to reopen at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Though police agencies throughout the North Country reported no serious accidents, authorities repeatedly warned of poor road conditions, especially in higher evaluations.

Many decided to keep off the roads, altogether.

But for those who did venture out, there were plenty of fender benders to navigate around because about 3 p.m., the wind picked up in Essex County, freezing the wet snow on I-87 and creating icy conditions from the Town of Chesterfield south to Schroon Lake.

Westport-based State Police said about 15 cars slid off the road between then and 7 p.m.

"Most people just hit the guardrails or drove into the ditch," the trooper said. "They were just going too fast."

He said no one was injured, but several cars were badly damaged.

"The towing services towed tons of vehicles tonight," he said.

Police wrote plenty of tickets, too, he said, for speed too fast for conditions.

The Westport barracks kept a couple day-shift troopers on the job for a few hours to help handle the rush of accidents.

Four Westport patrols and four from Schroon Lake were assisted by police from Moriah.

"We had 8 or 10 cars and we used all of them," the trooper said.

He said the state Department of Transportation responded quickly to tackle the slippery roads.

Ice-rutted roads caused a 4:30 p.m. one-car rollover on Route 9/22 in Ticonderoga.

At least one person was taken to Moses Ludington Hospital with minor injuries. No further details were available Sunday night.

Carlton J. Garrand, 20, of Altona lost control of his car on Military Turnpike in Plattsburgh about 4:30 p.m.

Plattsburgh-based State Police said the vehicle caught in the frozen, rutted slush, and Garrand over-corrected, ending up in the northbound lane.

His car collided with one driven by Dale Rascoe, 43, of Plattsburgh.

Garrand was taken to CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh with an injured right ankle, treated and released.

In the Town of Saranac, John Langley, 34, was driving down Manley's Hill on Route 374 near Walton H. Bull's Recreation Barn about 6 p.m. when he lost control of his vehicle in the slush.

Dannemora-based State Police said the car slid off the right side of the road, spun 180 degrees and hit a telephone pole.

The spot "is notorious for accidents," said the trooper.

Langley was treated for a sore shoulder, leg and cuts on his hands at CVPH then released. No tickets were issued.

"It's awful slow, but everything's moving," said one U.S. Customs official referring to the flow of traffic Sunday at the I-87 border crossing at Champlain.

Churches throughout Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties also were affected by the weather, as some elected to cancel services.

Meanwhile, temperatures were expected to lower steadily throughout Sunday night, the National Weather Service said, making already wet roads extremely slick.

And as for today, the forecast included snow showers, but meteorologists weren't predicting major amounts of precipitation.

Staff Writers Marcia Lanphear and Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.



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