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Feb. 9, 2007

VOLUNTEERS, COUNTY AND STATE AGENCIES WORK TOGETHER TO DIG OSWEGO OUT OF THE SNOW

Fulton - While people have been staying home due to the harsh weather conditions, several county and state agencies have mobilized forces to remove snow and provide emergency services throughout Oswego County.

"We really appreciate the efforts that fire and EMS volunteers, county and state agencies and emergency services representatives have put into ensuring public health and safety throughout the storm," said Patricia Egan, director of the Oswego County Emergency Management Office. "We've had wonderful support."

The county Emergency Management Office activated its emergency operations center at the Oswego County Office Building in Fulton on Thursday. County Legislature Chairman Russ Johnson, and representatives of the state and county highway departments, sheriff's office and state police, health departments, fire and emergency medical services, social services, emergency managers, and public information staff have been staffing the center to coordinate resources and provide assistance where it is needed.

Although the county is still in a state of emergency, there were several signs of improvement reported on Friday.

County vehicles have been dispersed throughout the county, with six trucks and a loader in the city of Oswego, and approximately 23 other snow removal vehicles scattered throughout.

"Our trucks have also been plowing out radio tower sites and have been continuing to escort emergency vehicles when needed," said Kurt Ospelt, Acting Superintendent of the County Department of Public Works.

NYSDOT representative Tony Ilacqua reported from the North Syracuse command center. "Five large snowblowers from outside the Central New York region have already arrived or are on their way."

Ilacqua said there are around 115 DOT employees working on this effort. About 40 people came here overnight and have started working today. "Our crews plan to work around the clock," Ilacqua stated. "Everyone the health department contacted, such as health, home health, and hospice patients, are doing fine," said Evan Walsh, Associate Public Health Sanitarian. He also noted that there were no current environmental issues.

Bob Loomis, a supervisor at the E-911 communications center said, "Today's call volume has dropped dramatically compared to the higher volumes from the previous five days. On Thursday we had as many as 1,600 calls."

"Although," Loomis adds, "the volume today is still higher than the 700 calls on an average day. A large quantity of our calls have pertained to minor snowblower injuries."

"In anticipation of the call volume rising again, due to snow removal injuries, four mutual aid ambulances are getting ready to help support local efforts," said EMS representative Raymond Thielke.

Also working around the clock are Oswego County's local firemen.

"So far there have been no fires, but with the collapse of roofs in Richland and Mexico due to heavy snow load, we are predicting that many more collapsing roofs will follow," said Deputy Fire Coordinator Jack Cottet. "We have the Philedelphia Fire Department from Jefferson County on standby to aid Pulaski until 8 p.m. tonight, and then the West Monroe Fire department is stepping in to help out."

The State Department of Corrections is also lending a hand. Five inmate work crews of 10 to 12 members are going to assist with snow removal around fire hydrants in various villages in the county.

"Two of the crews will be from Midstate Correctional Facility near Utica and three crews will be from Butler Correctional Facility in Wayne County," said Greg Firenze, State Emergency Management Office representative.

Local businesses are also helping out. SAM'S Club in Clay has offered to supply donations if human needs arise. Currently they are supplying emergency response agencies with food for the weekend.

"Fortunately, there have been no fatalities so far," Egan said, "We hope it remains that way as our residents and emergency responders work together."


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