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State DOT: North country roads are “passable”

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Most north country roads were “passable” by Monday morning following an ice storm over the weekend that led to a travel ban and widespread power outages.

The worst of the storm hit the north country overnight Saturday and on Sunday, leading to many county and town roads closures.

At noon, the village of Sackets Harbor, for instance, was still “officially” closed to traffic Monday morning — although motorists were traveling on some village roads.

Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, as well as Sackets Harbor, declared a state of emergency Sunday.

Jefferson County Fire and Emergency Management Director Joseph D. Plummer said St. Lawrence Riverfront villages — including Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay — were suffering the most Monday from the harsh after-effects of the storm.

The towns of Henderson and Hounsfield also were among the north country communities most affected by the ice storm.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Mr. Plummer said a “travel advisory” remained in effect in Jefferson County, with all roads passable, but secondary roads still were ice- and snow-covered, so motorists should use caution.

Citing the warmer temperatures this morning, Mr. Plummer was “pleasantly surprised” that conditions weren’t worse in Watertown with ice remaining on trees and power wires, Mr. Plummer said. In Sackets Harbor and the town of Henderson, that situation was not as “lucky,” he said.

As of 2 p.m., as few as 10,000 National Grid customers were still without power, according to Melanie C. Littlejohn, National Grid’s regional executive director of central New York. Most homes should have electricity by Christmas eve night, she said.

However, National Grid’s website indicated that the outage was still affecting more than 18,000 customers in Jefferson County as of 2:50 p.m.

State highways remained open for the most part, thanks to some standard preparation work on the DOT’s part. A crew of approximately 1,500 company workers was dealing with the aftermath of the storm Monday.

The half-dozen county emergency shelters were not being utilized much, Mr. Plummer said. About eight people stayed at Watertown High School and between 25 and 30 at the American Legion in Dexter, he said.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Michael R. Flick still was advising Northern New York residents to “exercise common sense” and refrain from driving Monday unless necessary.

“State highways are passable, open and fine. But if you don’t have to go out, don’t,” he said.

Last-minute Christmas shopping did not rank high on Mr. Flick’s list of necessary tasks for Monday.

“We try to focus more on anti-icing than de-icing,” Mr. Flick said.

By putting salt down before the ice storm hit, the DOT workers were able to create a layer of water under the ice — making it easier to remove the thick ice with plows once the roads froze.

Over the weekend, state and local highway department workers also responded to a few incidents of downed-trees, but Mr. Flick said he did not have statics available Monday.

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