Preparations Minimized Accidents,
Kept People Home, Authorities Say
By LIBBY CUDMORE
Preparation, Otsego County agreed, was the secret to riding out a successful winter storm.
“We prepared for the worst, and that made a big difference,” said Art Klinger, county emergency services coordinator at The Meadows Office Building, Town of Middlefield.
Though Winter Storm Harper threatened 20-30 inches over the weekend, the final total came to around 10 inches in most places.
“I don’t think not getting as much snow as we planned for hurt anybody’s feelings,” said Klinger.
After National Weather Service warnings on the storm Wednesday, Jan. 16, Klinger coordinated with the towns, who all said they were on top of their own road clearing. “The state Department of Transportation offered to help anyone who needed assistance,” he said. “But they said they were fine.”
“We spent the day making sure all the plows are ready to go and all the snowplow operators are on stand-by,” said Rich Brimmer, the county’s deputy highway superintendent.
The county put 16 plows at the ready, with each driver assigned a “beat,” which took 2-3 hours to complete.
In Oneonta, the plows went out around 10 p.m. Saturday and plowed throughout the night. “When people woke up, the roads were clear,” said Mayor Gary Herzig.
Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. issued a “No Unnecessary Travel” advisory at Noon on Saturday, Jan. 19, six hours ahead of when the storm was set to hit the county. “We wanted to give them time to do what they needed to do,” he said.
“People staying off the road made a huge difference,” said Klinger.
And it worked to keep people safe too. In all, there were only 35 accidents during the whole weekend, and only nine of those with injuries. “The numbers were on the low side given the volume of accidents during the previous snow event,” said Rob O’Brien, county 911 director.
By contrast, on Jan. 10, there were 30 such accidents in the 24 hours following snowfall that dumped 4 inches of snow on the county.
“For the most part, folks who didn’t need to travel did not,” said O’Brien. “Those that did need to travel, for the most part, were cautious and arrived at their destinations safely.”
Herzig reported there were no fire or ambulance calls in the city from the time the storm started Saturday night into Sunday morning. “Everyone stayed home and stayed safe,” he said.
Devlin also attributed the reduced traffic to the long weekend. “If this was in the middle of the work week, things might have been different,” he said. “But it was a holiday weekend, so people stayed in.”
And as the storm barreled down, the city’s Nixle emergency alert service kept Oneontans abreast of what they needed to know throughout the storm. “We wanted to make sure we had good communication so we could let people know if there were issues,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “More people have signed up, and we made an effort to use it more.”
In addition to reminders about suspended on-street parking and to clear sidewalks of snow by 9 a.m. Sunday, the City requested that homeowners shovel out fire hydrants to help emergency responders, if necessary.
“Everybody chipped in,” said Herzig. “When I was out walking, I could see that most of the sidewalks were very clear. And we didn’t ticket a single car for being parked on the street.”