A pre-Christmas winter storm left the North Country covered in a coat of ice Sunday, but the Tri-Lakes area was largely spared from any severe storm-related damage or significant power outages.
The storm began with heavy rain that drenched the area throughout Saturday. As the mercury dropped below freezing Saturday night, the precipitation changed over to sleet and freezing rain.
When local residents woke up Sunday morning, a quarter- to a half-inch of ice covered roads, sidewalks, trees, cars and anything else outside.
Lake Placid firefighters use a boat to evacuate a woman and her two dogs from 509 River Road, which was under about 2-and-a-half feet of water, around 11 a.m. Sunday.
Photo — Matt Colby
A state of emergency was declared in Essex and other counties Saturday afternoon. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also declared a winter ice storm emergency for the North Country and activated the state's Emergency Operations Center.
The heavy rains brought by the storm led to flooding. Twelve families had to be evacuated near Jay due to ice jams flooding the East Branch of the AuSable River, according to the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York, which said it is mobilizing resources and supplies to help people affected by the storm.
The AuSable's West Branch also flooded, in Lake Placid.
"We're evacuating some people from River Road," Lake Placid Fire Driver Greg Hayes said around 11:30 a.m. Sunday. "There's flash flooding going on down there. It's been rising about 3 or 4 feet in the last hour. It's come up big time."
The fire department ended up evacuating just one woman, along with her two dogs, from 509 River Road starting at about 11 a.m. as a safety precaution. There was about 2-and-a-half feet of water at her house, firefighter Matt Colby told the Enterprise this morning.
"It's a place that floods all the time," Colby said. "It's not the first time we've gone in to get her."
Local firefighters and utility crews also dealt with numerous reports of ice-laden trees falling into roads or toppling onto power lines.
"We've been going pretty much straight out all day," Hayes said Sunday.
His department had been handling calls from the storm since 2:40 a.m. Sunday morning.
They started with trees burning on power lines on Bear Cub Lane, then a transformer fire at 164 Deerwood Trail. After that, they had an hour-long break from 4 to 5 a.m. When they sent four trucks and 15 members to the Comfort Inn at 2125 Saranac Ave., where a hotel guest had fallen asleep while cooking with a microwave. Guest rooms and the pool area was full of smoke, so firefighters spent the next two-and-a-half hours using exhaust fans to clear the area of smoke. An hour later, they were back securing the scene of another tree on power lines, this time at Victor Herbert Road, then dealing with lines down at 40 Station St.
As one team was evacuating the River Road home, firefighters also responded to a power pole fire at 40 Signal Hill, and at 12:24, they sent two trucks and 15 members to the NBT Bank parking lot on Main Street, where a car had slid down the hill and crashed into another parked car. No one was injured.
Motorists were advised to avoid unnecessary travel. Most people seemed to heed that advice; state and local police and the area's fire departments reported very few accidents or cars off the road. In Lake Placid, state police said a fire truck collided with a parked car on Saranac Avenue near the Comfort Inn. No injuries were reported, and there was no immediate word on the extent of the damage to either vehicle.
Roughly 1,200 New York State Electric and Gas customers in Wilmington, Jay and Keene still had no power this morning, according to the company's online outage map.
There were no reports of major power outages among National Grid customers in the Tri-Lakes. A power outage map on the National Grid website showed roughly 80 customers were without service in the Lake Clear, Saranac Inn and Paul Smiths area, and a handful in the Tupper Lake area, as of 12:30 p.m. Sunday. This morning, the same map showed only three outages in the Tri-Lakes, two in the Saranac Lake area and one in Paul Smiths, affecting roughly 45 customers.
Mike Poirier, who works for the Tupper Lake Municipal Electric Department, said there were a few isolated power outages in his community.
"Nothing major," he said around midday Sunday. "Just branches falling down and taking power lines down. We've got about a quarter-inch of ice here."
Ray Brook-based state police had received reports of trees across the road in several locations around the Tri-Lakes: three on McKenzie Pond Road, three in the Lake Clear area, one in Saranac Inn and two in Lake Placid.
Municipal snowplow crews were busy all day trying to sand and clear the roads and sidewalks. Saranac Lake Department of Pubic Works Superintendent Jeff Dora said his crews were on the job early Sunday morning.
"They started about 1 a.m. dealing with the ice, snow, sleet, rain and everything else," Dora said.
Compared to what's happening around the region, the Tri-Lakes got away from this storm relatively unscathed. As of this morning, National Grid was reporting 24,000 customers still without power in the North Country, primarily in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties. NYSEG was still trying to restore service to nearly 2,000 of its customers in the North Country who still didn't have power as of this morning.
"Malone got socked hard," said Dora, who lives in Malone. "I woke up (Saturday) morning, and we had easily half an inch of ice on top of my car. That was on top of 5 or 6 inches of snow Friday night. While it was doing nothing but raining (in Saranac Lake), we had nothing but freezing rain all day yesterday."
"I was down in Plattsburgh (Saturday) morning, and it was just like it is here today," Vinnie Pelletieri of Saranac Lake said. "There were about four cars off the road in Moffitsville, Cadyville, Saranac. It was worse down there. Usually it's the other way around."
An ice storm warning issued by the National Weather Service in Burlington expired at 7 p.m. Sunday night.
Jessica Collier contributed to this report.