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Winds wallop Northern New York

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour ripped a roof off an Old Rome State Road house and knocked out power to about 5,000 National Grid customers in the north country Wednesday.


The wind wreaked havoc in the towns of Adams and Ellisburg, where more than 420 customers were still without power as of 7:45 p.m. An additional 430 customers lacked electricity in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties at that time.


Adams First Assistant Fire Chief Allen Mullin said his team responded to a flurry of downed line calls from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., mostly outside the village. The crew also aided Mannsville's department when a tree fell on an apartment attached to a Lorraine Street house and when downed lines blocked part of Route 11 in the village.


Mr. Mullin said the winds whipped so hard Wednesday that he was pushed across a small porch as he tried to reach an elderly couple inside the damaged apartment. The building eventually was evacuated without further incident.


"It was an interesting day today," the assistant chief said.


At 17726 Old Rome State Road, the roof blew off a two-story farmhouse owned by Hugh V. and Katherine G. Roach, according to county property records. The call came in at 12:58 p.m. to the town of Watertown fire department. Fire Chief Charles M. Dillon said the roof and the part of the brick chimney above the roof "blew right off the house."


"We cut the power and evacuated the property," Mr. Dillon said. "We advised the family not to re-enter the structure."


The family will not be able to go back to their home until a new roof is put on, Chief Dillon said.


The exact number of power outages couldn't be determined. But Alberto Bianchetti, National Grid's spokesman, said about 10,000 customers lost power in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Oswego, Oneida and Herkimer counties, of which about half were in Oswego and Oneida counties.


Joseph D. Plummer, Jefferson County fire and emergency management director, said there were about 3,600 homes in his county without electricity at the height of the storm.


Mr. Bianchetti said restoration work would continue until midnight.


"We're expecting a combination of very high winds, including gusts that could go up to 60 miles per hour, and the lake effect snow machine to crank up," he said Wednesday. "When we wake up again tomorrow morning, we're likely have a whole new batch of power outages."


National Grid has sent extra crews from the south and east to Jefferson and Lewis counties so it can respond more quickly to outages today, he said.


The National Weather Service predicted 6 to 10 inches of new snow would fall today in Watertown, with an additional 7 to 11 inches tonight. Meteorologists said St. Lawrence County will have less snow and calmer winds, although gusts could top 20 mph.


"It sounds like tomorrow is going to be really treacherous," said Mr. Plummer, who advised against any unnecessary travel in Jefferson County.


ROADS A MESS


Wednesday's unloading of snow, freezing rain and winds in the Ogdensburg area sent motorists off slippery roads, delayed and then closed schools and found state and local highway crews ready to hit the roads immediately.


On Wednesday, Ogdensburg Department of Public Works Director Kit W. Smith had his office television set tuned to the Weather Channel to check on the predicted arrival of freezing rain.


Public Works had six plows and two sanders crisscrossing the city Wednesday. Mr. Smith said it was already evident that motorists are tucked into a "winter mode" in driving. That means keeping the streets clear of vehicles for the plows and abiding by the city's annual winter ban on overnight parking.


State police in Ogdensburg reported several instances of vehicles sliding off snow-covered roads. But there were no serious accidents, and no injuries were reported.


In the town of Oswegatchie, a tractor-trailer collided at 9:22 a.m. with a pickup truck near Route 37 at the Acco Way.


Area schools felt the impact of Wednesday's weather. While Heuvelton, Lisbon, Morristown, Hammond and Madrid-Waddington central schools all began the day with two-hour delays, they ultimately ended up closed.


Clifton-Fine, Colton-Pierrepont, Edwards-Knox, Gouverneur, Northwest Tech and Potsdam also closed their doors because of early morning snow followed by freezing rain.


The Ogdensburg City School District opened on time, but bus-riding students were sent home at 1:30 p.m.


The first major storm of the winter season dropped three inches of snow in Potsdam overnight Tuesday and early Wednesday, according to Potsdam meteorologist Richard J. O'Hanlon.


Mr. O'Hanlon, who monitors weather patterns hourly, said the snow turned to freezing rain shortly before noon as air temperatures began to rise.


He said St. Lawrence County residents can expect another dusting of snow today accompanied by gusting winds in some regions.


"The story now over the next 24 hours or so will likely be high winds pushing from the south and southwest, bringing a small band of lake-effect snow into the region," Mr. O'Hanlon said. "We could see gusts of winds up to 50 miles per hour in some spots."


Johnson Newspapers writers Brian Kidwell and Larry Robinson and Times staff writer Sarah Haase contributed to this report.  

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