A blizzard by any other name

HILLSDALE–North Hillsdale hit the snowfall jackpot with 24 inches after the flakes settled on the sometimes “Blizzard of 2010” that blasted the area December 26 and 27.

Meteorologist Steve DiRienzo with the National Weather Service’s Albany Office said a snowstorm is a blizzard when the winds are 35 mph or greater for 3 hours or more and visibility is a quarter mile or less for the same duration. That means that at some times Columbia County experienced blizzard conditions, but the actual blizzard was further south toward New York City, he said.

The storm came up the East Coast and reached the county by midday Sunday, with the heaviest snow falling through the overnight hours and tapering off after daybreak Monday.

“Certainly, the storm was significant, it’s not every day we get the winds, blowing and drifting… it was a good nor’easter,” said Mr. DiRienzo, who reported the following snowfall totals around the county: Ghent 22 inches, Kinderhook 21 inches, North Chatham 20.3 inches, Claverack 20 inches, Taghkanic 19 inches, Ancramdale 17.5 inches and Livingston 17.

Generally, the county was beneath one-and-a-half to two feet of snow, with the windy conditions reported by weather spotters whipping up two-to-four-foot snow drifts in many places, he said.

Columbia County 911 Dispatcher Richard Lindmark said emergency calls on Monday were remarkably few in number, ranging from vehicles disabled in the snow to two accidents in which people were injured at the B-3 exit of the Thruway in Canaan at different times.

Callers reported wires down and tree limbs in the road, but only a minor number of power outages occurred overall — in Claverack and Taghkanic.

On Tuesday, December 28, Mr. Lindmark estimated the call volume at double the amount of the day before, primarily made up emergency medical calls, along with a reported propane leak and assorted fire alarm activations.

Out on the highways, Copake Highway Superintendent Bill Gregory said his department fared pretty well, with a just couple of equipment failures.

Ancram Highway Boss Jim MacArthur said the snow was nothing compared to wind, noting that as soon as a plow opened a path, the wind blew it shut.

At one point Monday, Mr. MacArthur said he had two trucks and a loader trying to extricate three cars from snow drifts on Winchell Mountain and Sawchuck roads.

While monstrous snow drifts are not extraordinary for that neck of the woods, it is puzzling that people familiar with the conditions still try to drive through them, he said.

Asked what the rest of the winter holds in store for the county, meteorologist DiRienzo said he had originally forecast a below normal snowfall for the season. Now, he thinks the weather pattern has changed to one much like the second half of last winter, which proved to be quite snowy. While a warm-up is expected later this week, the meteorologist said, a return to cold weather arrives next week, and when the weather is cold, there is always a chance for snow.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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