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North country gets a snow day but escapes worst

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Children and adults alike got a snow day Friday as schools and businesses closed in anticipation of the piles of snow predicted for the north country.

While New England braced for a historic blizzard, Northern New York received what one meteorologist called a typical winter storm.

“It’s winter, and it’s not uncommon for these storms to occur,” said meteorologist David A. Zaff from the National Weather Service in the Buffalo area. “There are two different systems slowly coming together. The storms will wrap around each other and become one.”

Weather service alerts warned that Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties could pick up 2 inches of snow per hour at the storm’s height Friday afternoon, with up to 16 inches in St. Lawrence County and a foot elsewhere.

Ogdensburg had 13 inches of snow at 6:30 p.m., and Watertown collected 6.3 inches by 3:15 p.m., according to the National Weather Service’s latest records late Friday night.

Some residents were unfazed. Douglas Kerr, Louisville, went to Price Chopper in Massena with his wife Friday afternoon.

“Seeing how the storm wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, we decided to come out and stock up,” he said. “When you live in the north country, even the worst storms are mild compared to what we got in the past.”

Still, public officials and school districts took the storm seriously.

Fort Drum canceled work for all except mission-essential personnel. The announcement on the post’s Facebook page prompted 125 “likes” by 3 p.m.

While Jefferson County superintendents canceled school, districts in Lewis County held classes as usual Friday morning before closing early as conditions deteriorated. Office staffs worked a partial day.

“We closed at 11:45 this morning,” Beaver River Superintendent Leueen Smithling said Friday afternoon. “It was fine here this morning. We wanted to get in as much instruction as we could.”

Indian River Central School had its office staff working into the afternoon. Although Superintendent James Kettrick closed the schools, he was still in the office getting work done Friday morning.

All 18 districts in the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services district canceled classes, as well as Salmon River Central School, Fort Covington, WIC offices in Canton and Massena and Head Start programs throughout St. Lawrence County. SUNY Canton closed for the day and SUNY Potsdam closed at 3 p.m.

For Parishville-Hopkinton, it was the first snow day of the school year. “We were concerned mostly with drifts and visibility,” said Superintendent Darin P. Saiff. “The towns and state do a great job of keeping the roads clean, but with a storm like this it’s hard to keep up.”

The city of Ogdensburg was using a fleet of 12 plows around the clock to keep streets clear.

“It is what we expected,” said Kit W. Smith, Ogdensburg public works director. “It’s no more than the usual north country storm; we just haven’t had one in the past couple of years.”

The storm was expected to have blown through by early this morning.

“By mid-day Saturday, we’ll be in the clear,” said meteorologist Jason E. Neilson from the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt. “You’re looking at high pressure building in for the rest of the weekend. It’ll be clear and cold.”

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