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Debris from the roof of Evans and White hardware store in the Racquette River, with the store in the background. Photo: Tasha Haverty
Debris from the roof of Evans and White hardware store in the Racquette River, with the store in the background. Photo: Tasha Haverty

Storms rip North Country, Potsdam hit hard

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National Grid says hundreds of people are still without power in St. Lawrence County, following a storm yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon that knocked down trees and tore roofs off some buildings. Much of the damage was centered in Potsdam. Village police lifted a State of Emergency at around 4 o'clock this morning. There are no reports of injuries.

Potsdam administrator Dave Fenton says the storm began shortly after 3 p.m., and caused substantial damage. Village officials declared a state of emergency and police say some streets are still blocked.

Fenton described a funnel shaped cloud, which moved quickly through the village. Last evening, Fenton said three buildings had already been condemned, and three downtown buildings had substantial roof damage. National Grid continues to work to restore power. SUNY Potsdam reports the college's power is back on, and has resumed classes today.

Most of the emergency calls in the Saranac Lake area involved downed trees on roads or power lines. A section of Route 30 between Lake Clear and Paul Smiths was closed briefly and about 6,000 Tri-Lakes residents were without power. Time Warner Cable and internet service were also down for several hours.

According to the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, a section of Rt. 3 in the town of Saranac was also closed briefly because of downed trees. Trees were also down, with intermittent power outages, across much of the Champlain Valley and western Vermont.

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Potsdam police and the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s office say no one was injured during a storm that ripped through the village yesterday. Village police lifted a State of Emergency at around 4 a.m. this morning. A travel ban was issued for both the village, and the township of Potsdam.  Both were lifted this morning.  Police say there still could be travel delays in certain areas, because some streets remain impassable.

Village administrator Dave Fenton says at around 3:30 p.m., it looked like a tornado moved through Potsdam. “We had a police sergeant out on Madrid Avenue saw a funnel cloud at his house,” Fenton said. “It seemed to come up the river, go through downtown and then out Main Street, and did a lot of damage downtown, did a lot of tree damage on Main Street, and the actual damage was very short and brief and it was pretty drastic.”

No one reported injuries to the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office or to Potsdam police. However, trees were downed and roofs were blown off some buildings. National Grid says 1,300 people are still without power in St. Lawrence County this morning, in addition to 900 in Franklin County.

Fenton said, “We’ve had three buildings condemned, due to roof damage; we’ve had a sorority up on Maple Street that was condemned because a very large tree came down on the roof; we’ve got three other buildings downtown that have substantial roof damage but not enough to condemn them; and we’ve got probably twenty locations around the village that National Grid is working on, has been working on that have power lines down, so.”

Fenton says the storm looked like a funnel cloud that quickly made its way through the village. National Grid continues to work to restore power. SUNY Potsdam reports the college’s power is back on, and has resumed classes today.

A shelter was set up at Norwood Norfolk Central last night for people who needed assistance. SUNY Potsdam also canceled evening classes after the campus sustained damage from falling trees and to the roofs of two buildings. Classes resumed today.

Jane Hermanson was visiting the hospital in Potsdam when the storm hit. She said, “I’m from Minnesota, we’re used to storms like this and we’re used to tornadoes, so when I walk the streets and drive the streets, it looks like a tornado hit. And it’s pretty devastating because it’s a beautiful community, beautiful trees, and I’m really sad about it.”

Power was out in much of downtown Potsdam last night. Hermanson says people told her the only place for a hot meal was the hospital. Jim and Marge Barnes were also walking in downtown Potsdam last night, and surveying the damage. They live next door to the Methodist church.

“We were fortunate,” said Jim. “And I was in the church, I’m the pastor. The wind blew, and we didn’t know where everything was coming and it was only afterwards that we could find out. And then, as we tried to walk earlier, there was a state of emergency so they told us to get off. But we’re adapting, we grilled pancakes on the gas grill tonight.”

Marge added, “We’re not used to not having anything to do. You know, it’s strange. It really is.”

The storm kept emergency crews busy in the tri-lakes area and parts of the Saranac River Valley. According to the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, a group of campers was canoeing on Middle Saranac Lake when their boats were capsized by the gusting winds. They were able to swim safely to shore. Most of the emergency calls in the Saranac Lake area involved downed trees, and about 6,000 tri-lakes residents were without power.

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Potsdam police and the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s office say no one was injured during a storm that ripped through the village yesterday. Village police lifted a State of Emergency at around 4 a.m. this morning. A travel ban was issued for both the village, and the township of Potsdam.  Both were lifted this morning.  Police say there still could be travel delays in certain areas, because some streets remain impassable.

Village administrator Dave Fenton says at around 3:30 p.m., it looked like a tornado moved through Potsdam. “We had a police sergeant out on Madrid Avenue saw a funnel cloud at his house,” Fenton said. “It seemed to come up the river, go through downtown and then out Main Street, and did a lot of damage downtown, did a lot of tree damage on Main Street, and the actual damage was very short and brief and it was pretty drastic.”

No one reported injuries to the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office or to Potsdam police. However, trees were downed and roofs were blown off some buildings. National Grid says 1,300 people are still without power in St. Lawrence County this morning, in addition to 900 in Franklin County.

Fenton said, “We’ve had three buildings condemned, due to roof damage; we’ve had a sorority up on Maple Street that was condemned because a very large tree came down on the roof; we’ve got three other buildings downtown that have substantial roof damage but not enough to condemn them; and we’ve got probably twenty locations around the village that National Grid is working on, has been working on that have power lines down, so.”

Fenton says the storm looked like a funnel cloud that quickly made its way through the village. National Grid continues to work to restore power. SUNY Potsdam reports the college’s power is back on, and has resumed classes today.

A shelter was set up at Norwood Norfolk Central last night for people who needed assistance. SUNY Potsdam also canceled evening classes after the campus sustained damage from falling trees and to the roofs of two buildings. Classes resumed today.

Jane Hermanson was visiting the hospital in Potsdam when the storm hit. She said, “I’m from Minnesota, we’re used to storms like this and we’re used to tornadoes, so when I walk the streets and drive the streets, it looks like a tornado hit. And it’s pretty devastating because it’s a beautiful community, beautiful trees, and I’m really sad about it.”

Power was out in much of downtown Potsdam last night. Hermanson says people told her the only place for a hot meal was the hospital. Jim and Marge Barnes were also walking in downtown Potsdam last night, and surveying the damage. They live next door to the Methodist church.

“We were fortunate,” said Jim. “And I was in the church, I’m the pastor. The wind blew, and we didn’t know where everything was coming and it was only afterwards that we could find out. And then, as we tried to walk earlier, there was a state of emergency so they told us to get off. But we’re adapting, we grilled pancakes on the gas grill tonight.”

Marge added, “We’re not used to not having anything to do. You know, it’s strange. It really is.”

The storm kept emergency crews busy in the tri-lakes area and parts of the Saranac River Valley. According to the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, a group of campers was canoeing on Middle Saranac Lake when their boats were capsized by the gusting winds. They were able to swim safely to shore. Most of the emergency calls in the Saranac Lake area involved downed trees, and about 6,000 tri-lakes residents were without power.

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