With more than 8 feet of snow already coating the ground, it wasn’t good news for this winter-weary region when the blue sky turned gray Saturday, signaling another intense snow squall was about to dump some more.
“This is bad,” said 67-year-old Dave DeGrau, who has operated an auto repair shop on Main Street for 45 years. “We had a very easy winter until now. Last fall during hunting season it rained every time I went out. I kept saying ‘I’m glad this isn’t snow.’ Now, it’s snow.”
Persistent bands of lake-effect snow squalls fed by moisture from Lake Ontario have been swinging up and down this part of central New York along the lake’s eastern shore since last Sunday.
The National Weather Service said Parish — about 25 miles northeast of Syracuse — reached a milestone early Saturday with 100 inches of snow during the past seven days. Late Saturday, the total had risen to 110 inches. Unofficial reports pegged totals at 123 inches in Orwell and 122 in Redfield, but those measurements include snow from another storm a couple of days before the current weather system. All three towns are in Oswego County.
Several more feet possible
A warning in effect until Monday morning said 2 to 4 more feet of snow was possible with wind gusting up to 24 mph.
“That’s all we need,” Mike Avery said as he took a brief break from loading dump trucks with snow to be hauled to a pile outside town. “It’s getting monotonous.”
The fluffy new snow was a magnet for snowmobilers, but stopping was out of the question.
“You can’t stop or you’re done,” said Dan Hojnacki, 23, of Syracuse, after he ground to a halt in a field. “I never got stuck until today, and I’ve been snowmobiling for 10 years.”
Residents of the nearby town of Mexico see 5- to 6-foot snowfalls every two or three years, but this time even hardened locals are amazed. The only sign of parked SUVs are their radio antennas or roof racks sticking up above the snow. Front doors are buried and footprints lead to second-story windows. Sidewalks that have been dug out look like miniature canyons.
Thoughts of early spring vanish
The state transportation department said 125 workers from elsewhere in the state had been sent in with snow equipment to help.
The region is located along the Tug Hill Plateau, the snowiest region this side of the Rocky Mountains. It’s a 50-mile wedge of land that rises 2,100 feet from the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. It usually gets about 300 inches — roughly 25 feet — of snow a year.
The hamlet of Hooker, near the boundaries of Jefferson, Lewis, and Oswego counties, holds the state’s one-year record with 466.9 inches, about 39 feet, in the winter of 1976-77.
Still, less than a month ago it seemed more like spring.
“Gosh, three weeks ago there was green on the ground. We got spoiled,” Parish Mayor Leon Heagle said. “This just came fast. This is not normal. God, we can’t catch a break. I feel like getting right in the car and driving south, but I’d probably get in trouble.”
The intense blast of snow hasn’t been blamed for any deaths in Oswego County. Elsewhere, however, more than a week of bitter cold and slippery roads have contributed to at least 20 deaths across the northeastern quarter of the nation — five in Ohio, four in Illinois, four in Indiana, two in Kentucky, two in Michigan, and one each in Wisconsin, and Maryland and elsewhere in New York, authorities said.