HIGHWAY CREW'S HEROIC EFFORTS DURING THE ICE STORM
By Teresa R. Eshelman, Photos by Danny Brown
With the best of weather forecasting services in the northeast, the ice storm build-up of January 1998 came very unexpectantly. Heavy rain was falling all day and into the night. Wednesday A little ice was forecast starting late Wednesday night, January 7, 1998. Highway Superintendent, Steve Farmer called the men out during the night to sand the highways. The rain was so heavy that the men were forced to stop sanding as the sand was washed off as fast as it was put down. Superintendent Farmer resumed the sanding in early morning around 3 AM Thursday. By this time, the ice had started to build up and the trucks were getting stuck in place. Chain saws had to be used to free the trucks from the downed trees, not only moving in one direction, but to cut back out of where they were at that time as well. Trees were falling down faster than the men could clear the road. The men finally were forced to clear a path for emergency vehicles only, and by dark on Thursday night, Superintendent Farmer sent the men home as they had been out during most of the night before. Not a road was open in the Town of Franklin by Thursday night. Fortunately no one was hurt during the previous night or during the entire storm.
The highway crew was back on the job early Friday morning the 9th; rain was still coming down. Power and telephone lines as well as the poles were down. Superintendent Farmer had little choice of action but send a crew of two men out together with chain saws to cut just a path for emergency vehicles only on the Town roads.
By Saturday, there was a little break in the weather; the rain had stopped freezing on the surfaces of everything it touched. The power was restored by Sunday night in some parts of Vermontville as well as the Town Garage. Some of the most damaged impassable roads were Alder Brook, Rock Street and Union Falls and some in Loon Lake. The highway crew and many, many volunteers were still cutting through on Rock Street late Saturday. It took five days to cut through Rock Street with two or three crews of approximately thirty men and three front-end loaders. The crews worked from both ends of Rock Street and shook hands when they met on Sunday night the 11th of January. There were too many to name for fear of leaving someone out, including our town Supervisor.
Almost on top of the ice storm, came a heavy snowstorm of one and a half feet of snow. The new snow covered up all the clearing of roads that had been done which was somewhat disheartening to the men.
During normal times, it seems; we often find fault with work progress and decisions made by the Highway Department. Superintendent Farmer remarked that the hard work and dedication of the highway crew and Town employees as well as local people was unparalleled. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
Other towns, who were not as badly damaged, including Brighton, St Armand and the village of Saranac Lake assisted the Town of Franklin with men and equipment. The Town of Franklin sustained the most damage in this area. The Bloomingdale Fire Department delivered hot food to the men out on the trucks.
Fema representatives have inspected every road in the town for damages and estimate that it will take $200,000.00 for the clean up. The town would be eligible for 87.5% of the estimated amount. As regulations go, the work must be completed before the town can submit the bill.
It is a matter of urgency to have the clean up completed before snow flies again, as expressed by Superintendent Farmer.
The Ice Storm is over, but the clean up is just beginning!
Town of Franklin
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