WATERTOWN — High winds that whipped the region overnight and as much as four inches of rain made for a messy mix of hazards Friday as trees fell, taking out power for more than 10,000 north country residents.
Trees fell across hundreds of peoples’ properties throughout the region, some landing on homes, power lines, roads and cars. Tree limbs, branches, strips of bark and debris covered the streets alongside fallen signs, plants and, in at least one case, a basketball hoop. Widespread rainfall, ranging from 1.5 to 4 inches across the north country, and runoff resulted in some flooded homes, roads and yards.
Kingsley Mason of Watertown was sound asleep after a light-night shift on guard at Fort Drum when a gust of wind uprooted a tree in his yard that landed on his High Street house.
“It just straight uprooted,” said Mason, who noted the older tree was likely dying.
Trees uprooted from roaring gusts fell on a couple of homes in Alexandria Bay, but caused minor damage and no injuries. Jeremiah Farman, of 87 Church Street, said he woke at 8 a.m. Friday to a sound “like dull thunder” when the tree on his neighbor’s property fell onto his home. The only damage sustained was to his gutter, he said.
“All and all, I got really lucky,” he said.
The wind, which gusted to 64 mph, blew the roof right off a building at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, just before 6 a.m. The cultural building, at 505 W. Washington St., houses an exhibit of an archeological dig at the historic site.
Emergency management officials in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties reported their phone lines were flooded with calls for help.
“Lots of lines down, lots of trees down,” said St. Lawrence County Director of Emergency Services Matthew Denner.
The storm caused sporadic power outages, flooding and felled trees throughout Lewis County, where residents reported snow covering their lawns on Tug Hill.
Starting about 5 a.m., the Sackets Harbor Fire Department became busy with calls of wires and trees down, fire department officials said.
The Sackets Harbor village public works department shut down Brown Shores Road when the road washed out, caused by wind whipping up waves in Lake Ontario. Nearby, a large tree also fell, landing across the road.
Some village residents were left without power for hours as they waited for utility crews to repair downed lines.
A roughly 30-by-75-foot barn on North Harbor Road in the town of Adams blew down. Its owner, Alan Reed of Reed Haven Farms, discovered the collapsed barn Friday morning.
“It was a fairly tall barn, so the wind had a lot of leverage,” Mr. Reed said. “It’s just one of those things that happens when you get strong winds.”
Mr. Reeds biggest concern Friday morning was the electric line still being attached to the barn, risking a fire sparking when the structure shifted. Now, there’s little that can be done in terms of salvaging the nearly 90-year-old barn, he said. “It’s probably just a matter of tearing it down,” he said.
Clayton Department of Public Works employees removed fallen trees blocking the roadway circling around Central Park, including one that took wires down and cut power to a nearby home. Toby Monica, who works for the department, said Friday morning they also cleared another fallen tree on Hugunin Street, as well as limbs and branches scattered across the village.
“There are fallen limbs everywhere,” he said.
The City of Watertown Fire Department was one of the many agencies inundated with calls of downed wires and trees. Capt. Charles Waugh, working overtime like many of his colleagues, was responding to call after call Friday morning. He said it ranks among the busiest days of the year for the department. Their job was to “protect people,” he said, from hard-to-see wires on the ground or risky situations with the fallen trees and dangling limbs.
Mr. Waugh helped barricade Burchard Street after a tree broke a primary power line outside one of the houses. Greg Demarco, who lives on the street, was on his porch watching the department and National Grid attempt to fix the line. He, like thousands of others, was without power at the time.
“It’s normal for this area,” Mr. Demarco said. “Trees are coming down everywhere.”
Mr. Demarco was hardly bothered by the outage as his generator was keeping his lights on.
“They’ll get to it when they get to it,” he said. “These things happen.”
The rainfall and proceeding runoff formed pools in yards and fields across the north country and flooded some roads. Alexandria Bay Mayor Steven E. Jarvis, who toured the streets surveying damage from the winds and rain Friday morning, said about a foot of water submerged part of Anthony Street, which he also attributed to a clogged storm drain. Yards along Northern Avenue were also flooded by rain and runoff.
The precipitation also proved too much for sump pumps and water collection systems in some homes, causing basement flooding. Clayton Fire Chief Scott Johnson said Friday afternoon firefighters had to help pump water from nine-to-10 basements, and Mr. Jarvis said Alexandria Bay firefighters also had to help pump water from cellars.
In the wake of the storm and wind damage, Mr. Jarvis said “The biggest thing is that nobody got hurt.”
At around 9 a.m., Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Oswego counties were nearing the end of peak winds. The highest wind recorded in the area was at around 8:40 a.m., when a gust registered at 64 miles per hour, said Dan Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo. Mr. Kelly said the winds picked up at around 2 a.m. the night before, which was coming from a strong pressure system tracking across Quebec, Mr. Kelly said. Temperatures dropped sharply from the 60s to the 40s Friday after a cold front passed across Western New York. Mr. Kelly said the winds would likely diminish gradually throughout Friday, but wind gusts of up to 50 mph continued in the afternoon. By 6 p.m., wind gusts are forecasted to diminish to roughly 35 miles per hour, Mr. Kelly said.
Joe Plummer, director of Jefferson County Fire and Emergency Management, praised efforts by fire departments in the area.
“Everybody is getting things done,” Mr. Plummer said. “They’re doing the best they can. The big thing right now is getting National Grid around to the affected areas.”
By the numbers precipitation
- Jefferson County: 1.37 to two inches
- Lewis County: 2.6 to four inches
- St. Lawrence County: 1.5 to 2.5 inches
Craig Fox and Marcus Wolf contributed to this report.