What could be the biggest snowstorm of the season in Vermont and New York’s North Country has begun. Utilities and responders have been preparing well in advance.
Scores of schools closed before the snow built to any significant depth and road crews prepared to push aside snow forecast to be up to two feet deep in some areas of Vermont. Forecasters say snow could fall at a rate of 2 inches an hour this evening. Thunder-snow is also expected in some areas.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for all of Vermont through 8 p.m. Thursday. General Forecaster in Burlington Conor Lahiff explained that as of midday Wednesday, they were calling the storm a “near blizzard.” “The criteria for a blizzard warning is the same as a winter storm warning in regards to how much snow you get. But the key is how much wind you get with it. And what we’re expecting for the winds is pretty strong, generally 20 to 30 mph, but there may be times that it could peak up to that 35 mph range which is our criteria for a blizzard. It’s something that we’re contemplating here at the office, but we haven’t quite pulled the trigger on that yet. But it will certainly be near blizzard.”
Lahiff reports that the Weather Service expects depths to vary across northern New York and Vermont. The western Adirondacks and St. Lawrence Valley will get the least with 8 to 15 inches. The Champlain Valley and central and northern Vermont could accumulate 15 to 20 inches. Lahiff calls the Rutland to Montpelier area the “sweet spot” of the storm with the potential to receive more than 20 inches. “There will be two parts to this storm. The first part is what’s going to be falling during the daylight hours. The snow will definitely be a little bit on the heavier side. But as the storm progresses off to the east, and we get those northerly winds, a lot colder air will be rushing in and that will change the snow ratios. We’ll turn from a heavier, wetter snow into a lighter and fluffier snow tonight.”
Green Mountain Power officials watch the forecasts carefully. Heavier, wetter snows can mean a greater liklihood of downed trees and downed power lines. They have assembled what spokesperson Dorothy Schnure calls a full army of people ready to respond to any outages. “We actually have a few hundred people ready to go. We’ve got our own line workers. We have contract line work crews. We have tree trimming crews. And we also send other Green Mountain Power support staff out to make sure that we’re taking care of everything that needs to be done to get power back on as quickly as possible.”
New York State Department of Transportation Region 7 Spokesman Mike Flick says for the northern New York region, crews are actually not doing anything extraordinary for what he characterizes as an old-fashioned winter storm. “The folks that we have are all well practiced. And one of the things they do best is snow and ice control. The highway maintenance supervisors are out doing patrols and they let our folks back in the barn know if they need to have extra attention paid in certain areas. And our folks are out twenty-four seven.”
At 1 Wednesday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for several central New York counties impacted by the storm. With the declaration, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Wayne and Wyoming counties will be able to use resources that are normally restricted for state use.