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Feb. 15, 2007

CONDITIONS IMPROVING IN OSWEGO COUNTY; STATE OF EMERGENCY CONTINUES

While Oswego County’s State of Emergency is still in effect, conditions are improving steadily, County Emergency Management Director Patricia Egan said this morning.

“Weather forecasts for our area indicate still more lake effect snow and wind, but not as bad as we’ve seen in the past few days,” Egan said. “A letup in the weather will help county and local municipalities, assisted by state agencies, bring the infrastructure back to more normal conditions.”

Oswego County Legislature Chairman Russ Johnson issued the declaration Feb. 8, 2007, and extended it for five more days on Tuesday, Feb. 13 after a lake effect storm system that began on Feb. 3 dumped up to 12 feet of snow throughout the county. Public works and emergency response crews have struggled to keep up with snow clearance and maintenance of emergency services throughout the storm and the Nor’easter that hit the entire region yesterday.

“The focus of our emergency response operations has been on infrastructure and public safety,” the legislature chairman said. “There are no restrictions on travel or the conduct of daily business.” The declaration of a state of emergency, in accordance with New York State Executive Law Article 2-B, allows the chief elected official of a municipality to direct all resources necessary to mitigate the emergency and enables him to request assistance from New York State.

Governor Eliot Spitzer’s declaration of a state disaster area for Oswego County Feb. 8 resulted in the deployment of State Department of Transportation, State Department of Corrections, and Army National Guard resources over the past several days. The DOT, National Guard, State Emergency Management Office, State Police, and State Health/Emergency Medical Services sent staff to assist at the County’s Emergency Operations Center, which has been operating since the morning of Feb. 8.

A travel advisory issued by the legislature chairman and Sheriff Reuel Todd on Feb. 5 due to heavy lake effect snow has not been lifted. “Even though road conditions are much improved, hazards still exist,” Legislature Chairman Johnson said. County Highway Department has been working closely with town, city, village, and state highway departments to ensure roads remained passable even as the snow fell at rates as much as 3 inches per hour. County officials are still asking people not to park on local roads so they can be plowed properly.

The State Department of Transportation’s five snow blowers are currently in Oswego, Redfield, and Orwell, and expect to be in Boylston and Sandy Creek as well. The snow blowers have been operating around the clock since their deployment last Thursday, assisting municipalities in clearing excess snow from roadways.

The Fire Coordinator’s Office is working with the Department of Corrections work crews and local fire departments on assignments, and they have been successful in clearing hydrants for the hard-hit areas. “While we’ve had great assistance from the DOC, we still ask people who live near a fire hydrant to help the fire service by keeping it clear whenever it snows,” County Deputy Fire Coordinator Jack Cottet said. “Winter is not yet over, and fire protection remains a top priority.” He also reminded people to follow advice for fire safety, especially for wood stoves; to keep snow cleared from their propane tanks and vents to their homes to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, and to make sure their house numbers are visible so responders can find them in an emergency.

The County Highway Department, State DOT, and National Guard are coordinating their efforts on snow removal in the county’s hard-hit municipalities through the Emergency Operations Center and the State Transportation Infrastructure Group command center in North Syracuse. Guard troops are in the Village of Mexico, Town of Orwell, and City of Oswego today, and will be working during daytime hours for several days to assist in cutting snow banks, opening intersections, and clearing parking lots in public facilities.

Temperatures will remain low over the next couple of days, and wind chill will be a concern, “People should continue to heed the snow shoveling and snowblower safety tips we’ve issued during the emergency,” County Director of Health Kathleen Smith said. “They should also wear layers of clothing, hats and mittens to prevent frostbite and hypothermia - and know the symptoms, and get help when necessary.”

The County Emergency Operations Center remains staffed 24 hours to assist state resources in completing their missions. Staff from Emergency Management; County Highway; County Fire Coordinator’s; Community Development, Planning & Tourism; Sheriff’s; Health; and Social Services departments and several volunteers have staffed the center to facilitate communications. The County’s E-911 Communications Center has facilitated operations from their location in Oswego.

. “We want to remind everyone that even though conditions are improving, dangers still exist with the amount of snow on the ground and the potential for more lake effect snow,” Legislature Chairman Johnson said. People should continue to follow the safety tips provided throughout the emergency by County Director of Health Kathleen Smith and Fire Coordinator John Hinds.”

All of the county’s press releases issued for this emergency, including safety tips, are available on the county website, www.oswegocounty.com.


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