Oct 31

Snow gave region the slip

While records for date still fell, we just missed getting lots more

The heaviest bands of an extraordinarily powerful October snowstorm stopped short of the Capital Region this weekend, but previous record snowfall totals across the Albany area were still shattered by one of the most impressive pre-Halloween blasts of winter weather in the past 100 years.

The storm, which began around 4 p.m. Saturday in Albany after barreling its way up the East Coast, dumped 3.8 inches of snow at Albany International Airport, according to the National Weather Service. That total towers over the previous record for the date of four-tenths of an inch.

Up to 9 inches fell in the highest portions of southern Albany County. Eastern sections of Columbia County saw more than a foot of snow, while 10 inches fell in parts of Rensselaer County. Most of Saratoga County and areas north were dusted with 1 or 2 inches.

The most intense patches of the storm hovered around areas south and east of the Capital Region, with more than 20 inches reported in portions of Dutchess County and more than 2 feet of snow pummeling Berkshire County, Mass., and portions of western Connecticut.

Albany could have easily seen similar totals if the storm’s fragile trajectory had shifted marginally to the west, said Bob Kilpatrick, a meteorologist with the weather service.

“It was a very, very close call,” Kilpatrick said. “If the angle of the storm moved just one degree more toward Albany, we could have seen over a foot of snow in the city.”

As the storm gained strength along the Atlantic and rose toward the Northeast, the concentrated pockets of the heaviest snowfall swayed farther and farther back toward the coast, Kilpatrick said.

Those heavy bands of snow continued to rotate east as the storm approached the Capital Region, settling in a path that narrowly spared the area from a direct hit, Kilpatrick said.

The dense, sticky flakes piled up on leaf-laden trees and power lines around the state, causing over 300,000 to lose power by the time the storm tapered off by 3 a.m. Sunday.

By 2 p.m. Sunday, the number of New Yorkers without power had been cut to 126,000, the Associated Press reported.

National Grid said around 1,700 customers in Albany, Columbia and Rensselaer Counties were still without power as of 5 p.m. Sunday. The storm had caused more than 13,000 people in the Capital Region to lose power.

Central Hudson Gas & Electric spokesman John Maserjian said it may be a week before power is restored to all 129,000 of the utility’s affected customers in the lower Hudson Valley.

Early Sunday, Consolidated Edison reported almost 69,000 customers were without power in Westchester County, as were about 4,700 customers in New York City.

Saturday night, the record snowfall forced motorists to leave their cars at impassable portions of Interstate 84 and the Taconic Parkway. Police said about 50 to 75 vehicles were towed away so the highways could be plowed and cleared of fallen trees. Owners were bused to their vehicles Sunday afternoon after staying overnight in hotels and shelters set up in Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties.

The storm brought the second-highest snow total on record in October for our area, only beaten by the infamous Oct. 4, 1987 storm in which 6.5 inches of snow fell at Albany International.

In the town of Grafton, 20 miles west of the Massachusetts border, Bill Larson dug his shovel into a thick mound of snow at the edge of his driveway along Route 2. Larson’s snowblower clogged when he tried to push it through the 9-inch-tall pile of wet snow Sunday afternoon.

“I wish I started earlier before the sun started to melt it,” Larson said. “Now it’s just all condensed, thick and really heavy.”

Larson, a 54-year-old postal worker, said he’s used to driving in inclement winter weather, but not this early in the season.

“The worst was on the way home last night after my shift, around 7 p.m.,” Larson said. “The snow coming down so hard and the roads were in real bad shape. People were zigging and zagging and losing control in front me. It was like it was the middle of winter.”

At Frear Park Golf Course in Troy, Jeff Coonan drove down from Wynantskill to squeeze in some early- eason sledding with his three young children: 7-year-old Jack and his 5-year-old twins, Janie and Joseph.

“They started bugging me about once the snow started coming down the other day,” Coonan said, referring to a light snowstorm Thursday that dropped around an inch of snow across the region.

Occasionally shedding their gloves under the bright fall sun, Coonan and his kids coasted down a tall hill on the fairway that approaches the 11th hole, sliding onto the green and nearly into sand traps that border the hole. Rakes used to comb the bunkers still lay in the sand. “Surprisingly, it’s packing nice and we’re getting some pretty good speed,” Coonan said. “We could have gotten more snow, but this is enough for us.”

Temperatures will again reach the low 50s Monday afternoon, Kilpatrick said, eviscerating most, if not all, of the snow in areas that saw under 6 inches just as children start trick-or-treating.

Staff writer Lauren Stanforth and the Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Fitzgerald at 454-5414 or at bfitzgerald@timesunion.com. On Twitter: @BFitzgeraldTU.

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