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Record storm pounds county; motorists advised to stay home

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

John Bardsley was up early in the midst of the season’s first storm Monday morning clearing his William Street sidewalk.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer John Bardsley was up early in the midst of the season’s first storm Monday morning clearing his William Street sidewalk.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

John Bardsley was up early in the midst of the season’s first storm Monday morning clearing his William Street sidewalk.

CORTLAND — Cortland County students woke up to a one-day school week this morning and a daylong lesson in lake effect.

Cortland saw 6.2 inches of snow by 9 p.m. Sunday, but that was just a dusting compared to what came overnight. Wind blew snow hither and yon, so the 9 inches in Freetown reported at 7 a.m. was well below the 21 inches reported in Tioga and parts of Tompkins County, the 18 inches in Broome County, 20 inches in parts of Madison County. Ithaca, on the other hand, saw just 4 inches.

The National Weather Service reported the snowfall obliterated records set in 1987 of 2.9 and 5.9 inches, respectively, in Syracuse and Binghamton.

The snow will continue through the day and into Tuesday.

A lake effect snow warning continues until 7 p.m. today.

Schools were canceled around the county, meaning students will have no more than one day of classes before they recess for the Thanksgiving holiday. At least it gives the kids something to be grateful for. Tompkins Cortland Community College closed its campus, as did SUNY Cortland, asking employees to use leave time rather than report to work.

The snow made driving a nightmare. Police responded to numerous vehicle accidents and reports of stranded vehicles but police and fire officials reported no serious injuries.

About 40 people escaped serious injury about 9 a.m. today when their bus rolled over on Interstate 81 in Marathon on the slick and snow-covered roadway. Additional information was not immediately available.

Driving conditions in Broome County, in particular, and the Thruway in Onondaga County were very hazardous, with reports of ice as well as snow and wind.

“When it snows, it keeps a lot of people off the road,” said Cortland fire Capt. Carl Grantham. “There were all kinds of accidents, all minor.”

Highway crews traded notes by radio that they probably moved more snow since midnight than they did all last winter.

That’s entirely possible. The National Weather Service forecast calls for 16 to 20 inches of snow through Tuesday, but because it’s lake effect — and very difficult to predict — the accumulation could easily top the 18 inches that Cortland saw for all of last winter.

Lake effect, in case you’re new to the neighborhood, is a winter weather feature particular to upstate New York when cold air masses blow over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes. The atmosphere picks up the moisture and drops it on your driveway.

Which is where you should keep your car, said Cortland County Sheriff Mark E. Helms, who issued a travel advisory this morning until 9 p.m. today.

“All county roads are snow covered, very slippery along with blowing snow and poor visibility are causing hazardous conditions,” Helms said. “All area highway crews are working diligently to clear the snow from the roads.”

Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould also issued a travel advisory for his county, reporting snow- and ice-covered roads and poor visibility. Similar warnings have been issued across the state.
“We are actively monitoring these storms, and New Yorkers should take appropriate precautions now, especially if they are traveling,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Roads may become hazardous, and I strongly encourage everyone to drive responsibly.”

Traveling? Don’t

The National Weather Service warns of gusting winds, white-out conditions and slippery roads, so stay put if you can.

If you can’t, you can access real-time weather and travel conditions at 511ny.org.

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