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Plows at the ready as Euclid blankets Northern New York

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CANTON - The powerful winter storm that brought a white Christmas, damaging tornadoes and flight cancellations to millions of Americans has a name: Euclid.

In Northern New York, many used a more familiar name for what was barreling toward the East Coast on Wednesday: snow.

“From a north country perspective — and this isn’t making light of what our downstate brethren are facing — an 8-, 12- or 16-inch weather event isn’t something we haven’t handled before,” state Department of Transportation spokesman Michael R. Flick said.

With 8 to 15 inches of accumulation forecast for parts of the region through tonight, highway officials were calmly taking stock of salt reserves and staffing requirements as the front approached, many sounding a note of confident preparedness.

“It is just a typical north country snow,” Ogdensburg Department of Public Works director Kit W. Smith said.

“We’re not doing a lot of preparations beyond what we normally do prior to an approaching snowstorm,” he said.

Those preparations start with treating roads ahead of the storm, an approach commonly used by DOT, the St. Lawrence County Department of Highways and other agencies.

For DOT, that means dousing the pavement with a brine mixture to prevent icing, Mr. Flick said, a process that was expected to begin late Wednesday afternoon. Once the snow intensifies, the word to plows is “drop the blade” and spread salt in their wake.

The period of heaviest snowfall is expected to be from dawn through this afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Whittier said.

“Travel conditions will be hazardous,” he said, with wind speeds hitting 15 to 25 mph in most places and possibly gusting up to 35 mph in the St. Lawrence Valley.

If there is one bright spot for motorists and plow drivers, it is that freezing rain and sleet are not in the forecast for Euclid, according to Mr. Whittier.

As for the name, broadcasters at The Weather Channel announced earlier this year that they would be giving monikers to winter storms — a long-standing tradition with hurricanes and tropical storms — as a means of drawing attention to weather patterns with the potential for “disruptive impacts.”

Whether the new names stick or not, Euclid seems to fit the bill.

National Weather Service observer David F. Werner of Malone said the system that has been crawling up the East Coast started out as “a parent storm” in the Tennessee Valley that moved toward the Ohio River Valley, then combined with a low-pressure center off the New Jersey coast.

“It’s got a good supply of moisture (Atlantic Ocean), a good supply of cold air — that means it’s a good, significant storm,” Mr. Werner said.

And that leaves highway crews with a significant responsibility today.

DOT’s Watertown-based Region 7 — the state’s largest — covers about 3,500 miles of state roads in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin and Clinton counties. Between 275 and 300 drivers are employed across the five counties to keep state roads clear, Mr. Flick said.

Coverage often overlaps. St. Lawrence County, for example, provides snow and ice removal for 118 miles of state highways and 144 miles of county highways, according to its website. An additional 435 miles of county roads are cleared by town crews under contract.

Ogdensburg is responsible for 105 lane-miles of streets, Mr. Smith said, but also clears municipal parking lots.

“They are looking at a midnight or shortly after start,” he said. “We’ll keep the main streets as open and just work on the various side streets as time permits and as we can.”

Mr. Smith said the city’s salt and sand piles are running low, but the city will be able to replenish after the new year with the start of the next budget.

“We’re way under what we would normally be this time of year, but we’re on the tail end of our budget,” he said. “We’re just trying to get through this year.”

DOT, meanwhile, is “doing pretty well” with salt levels so far this year, Mr. Flick said, adding that Region 7 uses about 150,000 tons each year.

The St. Lawrence County Highway Department, which also has “stocked up on salt” according to senior civil engineer Andrew Willard, was gearing up to send crews out for pretreating shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday.

“It’s going to snow,” Mr. Willard said with a matter-of-fact chuckle. “This is business as usual.”

Northern New York Newspapers writer Andy Gardner contributed to this report.

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