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NNY prepares for Hurricane Sandy

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Schools, municipalities and businesses throughout the north country took extra safety measures Monday in anticipation of potentially damaging winds from Hurricane Sandy.

High-wind warnings were put in effect until 11 a.m. today for Jefferson and Lewis counties, which could experience tree-downing gusts of 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service. St. Lawrence County is expected to face winds of up to 40 mph.

“When you wake up tomorrow morning, you might not have power,” meteorologist Kimberly McMahon of the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt., said Monday afternoon.

The worst conditions were expected to hit Monday night, when 50-knot gusts and waves of up to 21 feet were forecast for Lake Ontario.

But unlike Hurricane Ike in 2008, property owners on the lake’s eastern shore should not have to worry about flooding and storm surges, according to the weather service. Northeast winds from the storm were expected to flood the southwestern shore instead.

Waves on the lake should subside to 4 to 6 feet by tonight.

Northern New York was expected to avoid the heaviest rain. Mr. Mitchell predicted no more than 1.5 inches in Jefferson and Lewis counties, and less than a half-inch in St. Lawrence County.

For the Watertown City School District, closing early Monday was a precautionary measure despite the calm weather that morning.

“We have a number of students who walk to school,” said Superintendent Terry N. Fralick. “I remember a couple of years ago, we had some gusts that were up to 70 miles per hour. I think it was also in October. We didn’t close school early and it was nerve-wracking getting through the school day.”

In the Carthage Central School District, all classes were canceled by early Monday afternoon because “wind and buses don’t mix,” according to Superintendent Peter J. Turner. The Board of Education executive session meeting was postponed to 7:45 p.m. Thursday.

Meteorologist Jim A. Mitchell of the National Weather Service in Buffalo predicted widespread power outages because of downed trees caused by sustained winds of 35 to 50 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph Monday night. Because trees in the area are used to withstanding a western wind, it does not take much for root structure to be weakened from northeasterly winds, he said.

Residents are being urged to take down Halloween decorations and secure outdoor furniture and garbage cans.

State police, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and Watertown police reported Monday they were at the ready but not calling in extra personnel.

Sheriff John P. Burns and city police Capt. Cheryl A. Clark said shift supervisors have the authority to call to duty more officers if the need arises.

Trooper Jack Keller, state police spokesman at Oneida, said troopers throughout the state are on alert to respond if called. Additionally, all the agency’s boats, aircraft, four-wheel vehicles and scuba teams are prepared to respond wherever needed.

The Watertown Fire Department tested two gas-fueled pumps. The department did not alter any shifts, but all firefighters know they are subject to be called in depending on the number of emergencies.

More than 20 members are trained for the swift water rescue unit, which served prominently during the Broome County floods in the Binghamton area.

“But our priority is what happens here,” said City Fire Chief Dale C. Herman. “If we are having our own crisis, we will tell the state that we cannot deploy.”

Mr. Herman said schools were asked to have a delayed opening today in case of downed power lines.

Fort Drum was taking precautions as well. All nonessential civilians and soldiers were released at 2 p.m. Monday, according to the post’s public affairs office.

Additionally, the post will operate on a delayed reporting time today.

In some cases, the hurricane is canceling Halloween activities. The United Service Organization will not hold its inaugural Trunk-or-Treat in anticipation of the storm’s severity.

“USO had plans in place in the event of inclement weather, but due to the nature and severity of the storm and closings in the area and emergency support, the USO is forced to cancel the event completely,” according to a USO released statement.

James L. Lawrence Jr., manager of the Watertown International Airport, said American Eagle flights to and from Watertown have been canceled through tonight. Additionally, Nantucket-based Cape Air canceled all north country flights for Monday and today ahead of Hurricane Sandy’s impact. The carrier serves Massena, Ogdensburg and Saranac Lake. All of Cape Air’s flights in the mid-Atlantic and New England were grounded.

Canton, Norwood and Lisbon declared a state of emergency. Canton’s and Lisbon’s declarations are in effect until Friday.

The public hearing on the Canton town budget scheduled for Monday has been rescheduled to 6 p.m. Nov. 8. It will be preceded by the board’s regular monthly meeting at 4 p.m. in the Canton municipal building, 60 Main St.

Carthage Village President G. Wayne McIlroy declared an emergency condition for his village, which will be in affect until noon Friday.

“Hurricane Sandy presents significant, immediate issue which has the potential to threaten or imperil the public safety of the citizens and the infrastructure of this municipality,” stated a released statement issued by the village.

Mr. McIlroy has directed the village departments to take necessary steps to protect life and property, public infrastructure and other such emergency assistance as needed.

Jefferson Community College closed at 1 p.m. Monday, according to public relations officer Karen J. Freeman. SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam canceled classes later Monday. St. Lawrence University’s graduate-level classes were canceled as well.

Both the town and village of Potsdam were preparing for the storm, but neither declared a state of emergency.

“We haven’t seen a storm of this magnitude come in this direction before,” Mr. Mitchell said. “If your area is prone to losing power, then you’re probably going to lose power.”

National Grid reported that 311 customers in Jefferson County and 268 customers in St. Lawrence County lost power by 10 p.m. Monday as Hurricane Sandy swept through the north country.

In Jefferson County, the electricity provider estimated 164 customers lost power in the Adams area, while 102 were powerless in Watertown. Most of the power outages in St. Lawrence County were concentrated in the Potsdam area, as 239 customers were reported without power.

By 9 p.m. Monday, about 5,800 customers were without power in National Grid’s central New York region, which includes the north country and extends south to Syracuse. About 17,300 customers lost coverage in the provider’s eastern region, and 4,700 in the western area.

To view National Grid’s power outage map, which is updated every 15 minutes, visit https://www1.nationalgridus.com/OutageCentral.

Times staff writers Jaegun Lee, Craig Fox, David C. Shampine, Christopher Robbins and Jacob Tierney and Johnson Newspapers reporters Susan Mende and Elaine M. Avallone contributed to this report.

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