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Shelves empty of lamp oil, Monday at Evans and White Hardware in Potsdam. Photo: Natasha Haverty
Shelves empty of lamp oil, Monday at Evans and White Hardware in Potsdam. Photo: Natasha Haverty

For North Country, storm prep a well-practiced routine

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Whipping winds from Hurricane Sandy haven't caused much damage so far in St. Lawrence County. Emergency officials say things were relatively calm overnight. A few calls have come in so far this morning about downed trees and power lines.

National Grid reports as of Tuesday morning more than 18,000 customers were without power in the North Country and central New York region, most of those in Schenectady, Syracuse, and Oswego. A few customers were without power in Potsdam, and about 250 were without power in Watertown and the Clayton area.

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No one knew exactly what to expect Monday. Hardware and grocery stores were hopping, as people loaded up on provisions.  Shopping carts were full of bottled water, flashlights, and of course, batteries.

Customers we spoke to at Evans and White Hardware in Potsdam, and Coakley’s Ace Hardware in Canton all said they’d been through bad storms in the North Country before:

"My name is Irene Theobold. We've been through the ice storm so we pretty well know."

"I'm Brian Coots and I'm a carpenter, just doing a little running around and picking up some provisions and fortunately I didn't wait too long. Because we're not in the dead of winter, I don't expect us to be much more than inconvenienced."

"My name's Mary Boyd. I think I'm a bit more fearful than anyone—the last storm we had in Potsdam downed so many trees. I live on Main Street, and there was a lot of destruction. So I'm a little apprehensive."

"North Country people are pretty self-sufficient."

Whole sections of hardware stores were cleared out as Sandy approached. Pam Sharlow is one of the managers at Evans and White Hardware in Potsdam. "There were so many people looking for flashlights, and batteries, and lamp oil and lamps, and generators actually, but I've just been checking in our warehouse and they're empty…some batteries I can get, but lamp oil, lamps, they're gone."

Sharlow says they’ve had steady stream of people coming in for their storm supplies since Saturday.

While many businesses and institutions in the North Country are quieting down and closing early, food markets and hardware stores were all abuzz Monday afternoon. Bill Coakley owns Coakley’s Ace Hardware in Canton. He says unlike a lot of Ace dealers on the East Coast he’s talked to, he’s not anticipating a huge problem up here: "North Country people are pretty self-sufficient. The advantage we have now as opposed to the winter storm of '98 is that it's not cold, so people aren't in danger of freezing up or anything."

Coakley’s business has been in the North Country for 110 years. He says he’s seen that when things do get bad, people know how to take care of each other.

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