By Monday evening, Ulster County Emergency Management declared that 3,500 Central Hudson customers in the county were without power, with the outages clustering north in the Woodstock and Saugerties region, but also in the cold and dark was the Seven Greens senior citizens housing complex in the Town of Ulster.
Temporary emergency shelters opened at 9:30 p.m. at the Woodstock Rescue Squad building on Route 212 in Woodstock and the Ulster Hose Co. No. 5 headquarters on Ulster Avenue in the Town of Ulster. A nice gesture, though according to John-Anthony Bruno, executive director of Ulster County’s Red Cross, the shelters didn’t see one person. “We just thought it was important to leave them open, especially with the senior housing without power,” said Bruno. “Typically, we use the town of Ulster VFW building, but because we were trying to set this up late at night, they were difficult to get a hold of.” Bruno explained that despite agreements with dozens of organizations around Ulster County, Ulster Hose was the easiest to reach in a pinch. “It was after 5 p.m. when the office of Emergency Management called and asked us to line it up. We made decision to open it by 8 p.m. with volunteers and provisions in place. Shelters stayed open from Monday night through 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Bruno said that in 2010 three shelters were setup during the destructive, late-February storms which helped 75 people over a course of 5 nights. 2010 also had shelters several times throughout the year during flood potentials, housing 25-30.
Ulster Hose 5 chief Sam Appa explained his theories on the shelters’ curious lack of patrons. “A few different reasons: Central Hudson got the power back on very quickly… We didn’t get a lot of calls,” Appa said. “During the whole storm it was relatively quiet. I think that’s attributed to it being a weekend, and not a weekday, and people not working. People had a lot of time to prepare. A lot of businesses were proactive and asked their employees not to come in. The storm took place overnight — people were tucked in and staying home.”
Appa added that the night of the storm, Ulster Hose didn’t receive as many calls as was anticipated, a sentiment echoed by Rick Salzmann, Kingston Fire Department Chief. “The way the wind was blowing, we thought we would have a lot more,” said Appa. “With the weather being more predictable these days, we don’t get the calls like we used to in the ’70s where people would get stuck in their cars. People are more prepared today.”
Diane Reeder, executive director of the Queen’s Galley Soup Kitchen, said that extra people came in to huddle for warmth, but what disturbed her was the lack of others — a few empty seats that normally are taken by elderly regulars. “Those people who are at highest risk of hunger often cannot get out to walk in ice and snow. They go hungry because they cannot access food resources like food pantries and soup kitchens. What we will see is an increased frequency of guests dining here asking for meals ‘to go’ for someone who may be homebound; we really are not equipped for carry-out on a regular basis right now.”
The food isn’t the issue, explained Reeder. They actually have all the food they need through farmers, second harvest programs, food bank, USDA and individual donors. “What we don’t have is the money to buy to-go containers or the capacity to deliver food. It’s not like we sell anything or contract to deliver food. We make food. But to enjoy it, people must come here. Every so often when the need is so great we have to use common sense and compassion and figure out how to connect that person with food.”
Snow removal is another issue for Queen’s Galley, Reeder added, recalling how last year Mayor James Sottile plowed their driveway himself. “Snow removal costs money ... and of course it snows a lot after the holiday season is over,” Reeder said. “But after the holidays are over people historically forget we are here January through May.”
Out on the streets
City of Kingston Public Works Assistant Superintendent Ed Boyle speculated that there were about 22 trucks clearing snow, including six large salters and three smaller ones, distributing 150 tons of salt; the average amount of salt used for nearly any storm. “We pre-salted Sunday morning and got set for this storm with chains and ballasts. And then the guys went home and we didn’t have to come in till 8 p.m. that night. Pre-salt melted a lot from underneath in the beginning. At 3 a.m., we called the whole crew out. From 8 p.m.-3 a.m. we only had four salters out. Three a.m., we had everyone out. Everyone had a run to do. Four guys were home by noontime, and then the rest stayed till 3 p.m. like a regular day.”
Boyle said that when he was out by 3 a.m., some of the streets weren’t even touched, however by 7 a.m. all the streets had “at least one pass through it … You would go down some streets and there was nothing. Go down others and there were 20-inch drifts.”
Boyle said that Midtown is usually the most challenging to plow with parked vehicles, but he was not aware of any cars getting towed. “Uptown business district is hard, and around the high school is hard. Levan and Andrew and Brewster because that gets tight over there. A lot of people used the public parking lot. The parking lots were packed with cars, which is what we want, that’s another good thing people were doing.”
Snow removal efforts will continue through the week, he explained, especially around lower Broadway roads to clear visibility for drivers. The snow removed gets dumped in a lot on Summer Street.
Dave Lowrie of Kingston said that he was on his way home from his parents’ house in Connecticut on Route 84 with his 8-year-old daughter, and had to call it quits. “We almost didn’t make it off 84 before they closed it. We booked into Hudson Valley Inn on 9W in Newburgh — for $90 got a big double room with Jacuzzi tub,” said Lowrie. Why would he contemplate driving in this storm? “All weather reports said snow would be east to Long Island, then it blew back as far as Newburgh, which got more than 12 inches. We checked into the hotel at 8 p.m. after spending three hours on 84.”
Christin and Ivan Nosenchuck of Connelly said that since their kinder were visiting Nana’s house, they got some much-needed time to relax. “Well my commute is thankfully short, and I got on the road before it got bad — around 6 p.m. it was bad, but it was getting worse,” said Ivan. “The roads I travel are the main ones and it was 10 minutes across town … I imagine if I stayed out even another 20 or 30 minutes it would have been much worse. Most people were thankfully off the roads.” As for when Ivan walked through the door, “We just chillaxed at home for the evening … We chilled out solo date night.” Christin said they ate Christmas leftovers, watched TV in bed, and listened to the wind.
Digging-out continued into midweek for many. Tuesday afternoon, Andrea and daughter Carley Whittaker of Esopus were struggling under the weight of the snow. Whittaker glossed nothing over: “It sucks. I hate snow.”
Ironically, Whittaker was shoveling her driveway and path out because her husband, who works for the county as a road maintenance leader, had only been home once briefly since Sunday afternoon.