Freak pre-Halloween snowstorm hammers Warwick

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:03

    More than foot of snow wrecks havoc from Greenwood Lake to Florida and most everywhere inbetween WARWICK — All records were broken this past week as a Nor’easter with high winds and heavy snow struck the area last Saturday, Oct. 29. The freak pre-Halloween storm caused fallen trees, numerous power outages and subsequent road closings throughout the Town of Warwick. By Sunday morning snow accumulation in the higher elevations surrounding the town measured 18 inches or better. More than 27,000 Orange County residents had lost power. Earlier this week many parts of Warwick including Pine Island, the Village of Greenwood Lake and parts of the Villages of Florida and Warwick had been without power since Saturday evening. And most but not all of the downtown Warwick shops remained closed. “Our power came back Monday afternoon,” reported Mary Beth Schlichting, owner of Frazzleberries gift shop on Main Street. “But we had to cancel an event and like all the other merchants, lost business on what would normally have been a busy weekend. Considering the earthquake, Tropical Storm Irene and this, I’ll be happy when 2011 is over and we ring in the New Year.” Although some stores never lost power, others directly across the street or even next door remained in the dark. Some, like The Inkwell, stayed open for business but were unable to process credit or debit cards. “It’s not a total outage,” said Mayor Michael Newhard. “My store, Newhards, is out but my brother’s business, Akin’s Pharmacy, has power and it’s just down the street.” Phone service lost, too Orange and Rockland Utilities did not anticipate total restoration of power until the end of the week and on Monday the company began distributing dry ice for customers in need. To worsen the situation many customers in the Town of Warwick and surrounding area that are served by Warwick Valley Telephone Company and its subsidiary company USA Datanet were without dial tone. The loss of service was a result of a brownout in the Village of Warwick. “Although this was extremely unfortunate for our customers, we believe they understand this event is an anomaly, and not indicative of the service we work hard to provide,” stated Duane Albro, president and CEO. “WVT truly apologizes for any inconvenience that our customers may have experienced due to this event.” Once the outage was realized WVT employees worked around the clock to restore service. And dial tone and local/emergency calling was restored by 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. By 9 a.m. Monday all inbound and outbound calling was restored. Tropical storm Irene was still a recent memory as the Town of Warwick struggled to control another disaster. “Our crews worked all night Saturday and then staggered crews on Sunday,” said Supervisor Michael Sweeton. “All our roads were open by the end of storm although there was more trouble with state and county roads.” Sweeton added that although Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency, it remained to be seen if Orange County reaches the threshold of costs to get a disaster declaration. Roads reopen “That’s still to be determined,” he said. “All town roads are now open. But wires are still down and power is still out in some areas and coming back slowly.” Warwick is no stranger to snowstorms and the public works departments generally have things under control quickly. The timing of this storm, however, created an additional problem. Public works departments are not always ready for winter at this time. Plus most of the trees were still carrying leaves, making their limbs more susceptible to collapsing under the weight of wet and heavy snow. And that in turn resulted in many downed power and telephone lines along with road closings including Route 17A from Mt. Peter to Greenwood Lake and on Sterling Mountain. Mayor Newhard, a native of Warwick, could not remember any snowstorm this size occurring around Halloween. “That’s a pretty important holiday for a kid,” he said, “and anyone who grew up here would remember that.” - Roger Gavan Cause of telephone service outage: According to WVT Communications the loss of service was a result of a brownout in the Village of Warwick. Normally a blackout will not affect telephone service due to the extensive battery backup that will supply the central office with power for eight to 10 hours. After that time, the power source should automatically switch to the backup generator. However, with the brownout, the backup generator did not kick in and the batteries were subjected to severe power drain without recharging from the generator. Ultimately, the central office powered down. By the numbers Some Town of Warwick extraordinary expenses resulting from the storm: Overtime: 23.5 hours costing $38,916 Salt and sand: 200 tons costing about $15,000