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DEC dump truck in line waiting to get loaded.

Member assists with record snowstorm cleanup

By KATE MOSTACCIO

DOT truck being loaded by a loader.

It was all hands on deck to deal with the record-breaking snowfall in Binghamton and Schenectady December 16-17, 2020, and PEF members at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) shifted from their typical job duties to that of clean up to help overwhelmed crews.

Near the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Binghamton, a staggering 40 inches of snow fell and the NWS observed an unprecedented 20.5 inches in six hours. The storm broke the record for the heaviest two-day snowstorm — 35.3 inches — that fell in mid-March  2017, according to the Washington Post.

PEF member Doug McCabe, a DEC conservation operations supervisor, usually oversees DEC operations in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and parts of Hamilton counties. During weather emergencies, he meets with the agency’s emergency response coordinator and queries personnel to see who is available to assist.

“DEC Operations staff will check over the equipment, such as dump trucks, trailers and other heavy equipment to insure everything is ready for deployment,” McCabe said. “Whenever there is an emergency, such as snow or wind, DOT or other agencies will send a request for aid. I’ve done this a few times with the wind storms in Hamilton County and a large snow storm five to six years ago in Albany.”

The Friday and Saturday of this storm, McCabe found volunteers from his staff to deploy to hard-hit Schenectady. On Sunday, McCabe himself answered the call.

“I hopped in the tandem-axle dump truck and drove to Schenectady from Saranac Lake and hauled snow for 10-12 hours and then drove back,” McCabe said. “In Saranac Lake, we get snow like that every year, but it was quite a bit for that location with small streets, the amount of snow and no place to put it. It was quite devastating for those guys down there.”

McCabe said the experience is always rewarding.

“It’s a great experience working with everyone,” he said. “Everybody is just working together, getting the job done and making sure we open up the city so people can move around.

“I think it’s a good thing and anytime we can help anybody else is always good,” McCabe said. “If we need help, it usually comes back to us.”

Hitting the road again

PEF members across state agencies were also involved in the storm that dumped 25 inches of snow on some regions of the Hudson Valley; 12-18 inches in New York City and on Long Island; and up to 12 inches in areas further upstate.

McCabe and his DEC colleagues may have more work ahead of them. On Feb. 2, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, calling for six more weeks of winter.