Clear 32° Good Evening
Clear 32° Good Evening

Nor'easter snarls commute, cancels schools, worsens power outages in Hudson Valley

Cars drive on snow-cleared roads after a Nor'easter

Cars drive on snow-cleared roads after a Nor'easter hit the New York area on Executive Boulevard in Yonkers. (Nov. 8, 2012) Photo Credit: Matthew Sartwell

With Wednesday's nor'easter pounding the Hudson Valley, commuters can expect slick roads, heavy traffic and delayed trains Thursday and school cancellations for the second time in as many weeks.

The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 39 miles an hour late Wednesday. The Hudson Valley saw as much as two inches of snow accumulate as the first blast of winter weather roared into the region.

Gas lines -- which had shrunk in recent days as more fuel made it to the region -- grew larger again as people filled their tanks and purchased extra for their generators. And, as feared, some neighborhoods were without power again as trees buckled under the weight of a soggy, wintry mix.

"To take a second hit in a short period of time, whether it's a tree or a power line that's been compromised, is definitely a concern," said Kieran O'Leary, a spokesman for the Westchester County Police Department.

The nor'easter interrupted power to about 10,000 customers Wednesday night, according to Orange & Rockland Utility, but those outages were quickly repaired. The company said emergency crews would remain on standby overnight.

Earlier in the day, an additional 800 outages were reported in Westchester County.

"Obviously, they can't work in bucket trucks out in the middle of a heavy wind storm," Con Ed spokesman Alfonso Quiroz said. "The only positive here is that we have 3,000 crew members that are ready to respond."

Utility companies feared that new outages could be numerous as trees damaged by Sandy snap.

"That could put us right back where we were in terms of outages and road closures right after Sandy," said Nancy Baker, a spokeswoman for the Rockland County's Office of Emergency Services.

In total, about 50,000 customers in the Hudson Valley remain without power, according to the utility companies' websites. Of those, some 39,460 are in Westchester County, 6,800 in Rockland County, 2,300 in Orange County, 480 in Putnam County, 416 in Dutchess County and 47 in Ulster County.

Orange & Rockland Utilities planned to keep its 2,500 outside contractors on hurricane restoration work and divert some or all of its 1,000 full-time restoration workers to the new outages on an as-needed basis, said Mike Donovan, an O&R spokesman.

"Our crews know the turf better than the outside crews" and can better react to new problems, Donovan said.

Subway service was delayed across all lines, although most of the irregularity with subway service was a residual effect from Hurricane Sandy. The MTA reported short delays on the Metro North's New Haven Line, but as of late Wednesday night the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson lines were all running on schedule.

After steady progress restoring power throughout the week, utilities were forced to pull their crews from the field -- the nor'easter was expected to bring sharp wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, creating dangerous conditions for crews who use bucket lifts to reach power lines.

Before the storm, only some 37,000 outages remained in Westchester County. By late Wednesday night, Con Edison and NYSEG reported an additional 2,000 outages in Westchester. Outage numbers in Orange and Rockland counties remained the same, and few outages were reported in Dutchess and Ulster counties.

Officials declared reduced speed limits on the Tappan Zee Bridge early Wednesday evening, then took the unusual move of banning motorcycles and empty trailers on the span because of wind gusts.

The storm, which arrived late Wednesday morning, was expected to pack wind gusts of more than 50 mph, News12 meteorologist Brysen VanEck said.

A high-wind warning was issued for southern Westchester County, and the rest of the Hudson Valley is under a high-wind advisory, a step below a "warning."

"We're going to be dealing with it all," VanEck said. "Strong winds, rain, snow and coastal flooding."

An expected storm surge of 2-4 feet also could bring renewed flooding to communities along the Sound Shore, which is under a coastal flood warning until sometime Thursday morning, according to VanEck.

In addition, the nor'easter is expected to leave up to 2 inches of snow in parts of Westchester County south of Interstate 287. And north of I-287, the storm could dump up to 5 inches of snow before clearing out late Wednesday night, VanEck said.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said he received the same assurances from Con Ed -- mutual aid power crews, some from as far away as California, will stick around through the nor'easter. The bad news, Astorino said, is that after significant progress "everything came to a standstill" as the snow and wind picked up and utility crews were pulled.

"Everything's on hold right now, according to Con Ed and NYSEG," Astorino said. "They can't be up on a pole with 50 mph winds in the snow. That's not good when you have 40,000 people in Westchester County without power."


The storm affected Wednesday school schedules, with most Ulster County school districts ordering early dismissal and many other schools in the Hudson Valley canceling all after-school activities.

Meanwhile, extra Westchester County police officers will remain on patrol, as they have since Sandy, O'Leary said, and the county's emergency operations center will remain open.

"We're prepared for the nor'easter because of the staffing we put in place after Sandy," he said.

The nor'easter was especially frustrating to hard-hit communities where people were just getting back on their feet. Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla was among several local leaders who took to Twitter to urge caution.

"Roads are slick. DPW's out. Stay in," Pilla tweeted.

Officials will open a disaster recovery center at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on Thursday, Astorino said. People who need help can talk to representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, county social services, mental health experts and others who can point them toward the services they need.

Aides also will be on hand to guide residents through disaster relief paperwork.

"You'll have a live person there to get you through it," Astorino said. "You don't have to sit on an 800 number or worry about getting things wrong."


With Karl de Vries, Meghan Murphy and Betty Ming Liu

More news

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to Newsday is free for Optimum customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.