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Bad news boars: Helicopter crew fights NY feral swine

Above: A trailcam captures a nighttime view of a wild boar in Delaware County. Photo taken in August of 2013; courtesy of Justin Gansowski of the USDA.

This week, federal wildlife agents armed with cameras and sniper rifles are patrolling New York State skies by helicopter, hoping for a glimpse of wild pigs. It's the latest mission in an ongoing battle to rid the state of feral swine, before most New Yorkers even realize the state has a pig problem.

It's far too late for Texas, whose $500-million-a-year feral pig problem has been dubbed the "aporkalypse." In Florida, the pestilential pigs are found in every county, and have even destroyed a $16 million F-16 fighter plane. Pigs are a moot point in Mississippi, where experts say it's "only a matter of time" before feral swine rut and root their way from rural Clay County to the far corners of the state

But it might not be too late for New York, according to the handful of state and federal regulators whose task it is to try to keep feral swine from getting established in the Empire State.

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NYC mayor comes out swinging against fracking

New York City's newly-inaugurated mayor, Bill de Blasio, made it clear he's opposed to hydraulic fracturing in New York State in a speech to fellow mayors in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

De Blasio told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that "the one thing I am firm about is that I don't see any place for fracking," Capital New York reports. The mayor spoke in favor of a statewide moratorium: 

“The science simply isn’t reliable enough," de Blasio said on Thursday. "The technology isn’t reliable enough. And there’s too much danger to our water supply, to our environment in general. So my view is that there should be a moratorium on fracking in New York State until the day comes that we can actually prove it’s safe, and I don’t think that day is coming any time soon.”  Read more

Scenes from a Catskills cold snap

Above: Even in subzero weather, Roxbury looks picture-perfect. Photo taken Wednesday at sunset by Greg Henderson of the Roxbury Motel.

Above: It's a nippy 4.1 degrees right now on Belleayre Mountain, but the freshly-groomed corduroy looks pretty inviting. Photo posted today on Belleayre's Facebook page

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NY doubles down on high-tech weather forecasting

Meteorologist Mitch Gilt of the National Weather Service measures snowfall in Binghamton after a recent storm. Photo from NWS Binghamton's Facebook page.

After three major storms in three years, New Yorkers are investing heavily in high-tech weather forecasting. 

In his proposed budget for 2014-2015, released on Tuesday, Jan. 21, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to set aside $15 million of federal aid earmarked for Hurricane Sandy to build a "state-of-the-art weather detection system" that will create scores of new weather stations throughout the state. From the governor's budget proposal:

The system will provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions, and identify threats to communities, roads, bridges and the electric system. Data will be available for use in predictive modeling and early warnings to prevent loss of life and property. The number of weather stations will be increased from the current 27 to over 100, creating a highly sophisticated real-time weather reporting network that will accelerate and improve information sharing, thereby assisting emergency responders in responding to extreme weather events. 

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the city's upstate reservoirs, has also been investing heavily in weather technology lately. The DEP needs accurate weather data -- especially streamflow data -- to manage more than a billion gallons a day flowing through the city's water system. 

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The commissioner grew carrots

Above: New York State Agricultural Society President Diane Held congratulates Schoharie County farmer Richard Ball, recently appointed as New York State's new Commissioner of Agriculture, at the group's 2014 forum on New York agriculture. Photo from the New York State Agricultural Society's Facebook page.

Look through the roster of New York State's top agricultural officials, and you might notice they've got something in common: Cows.   Read more

Return of the polar vortex

Don't go out there, kitty. Photo taken in Andes over the weekend by Mark Zilberman; shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group pool.

It's baaa-aaaaack: The polar vortex, a whirling mass of low-pressure frigid air that usually has the decency to stay far north of us, is dipping down south again this week to pay the Northeast and Midwest another visit.   Read more

Catskills under weekend flood watch; Ashokan releases underway

Above: A running spigot at Hubbell Bros. in the Delaware County town of Middletown gets the polar vortex treatment. Photo taken on Wednesday by Watershed Post reader Burr Hubbell, who writes, "The water's still running inside that icicle thingy. It's just frozen on the outside."

The Northeast is thawing out this weekend, after several days of intense subzero cold. In the Catskills and across a wide area of upstate New York, a combination of rain in the forecast and melting snow and ice from rapidly-warming temperatures has the region under flood watch from Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening.   Read more

Cold snap taking a toll on power grid, officials say

Don't touch that dial (til 10 p.m.). Closeup photo of washing machine control panel by Flickr user Chris Dillon; published under Creative Commons license

Officials at the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the nonprofit company that manages and monitors New York State's complex electrical power system, are worried that abnormally cold temperatures may take a toll on the electrical grid.   Read more

Polar vortex heads for the Catskills (with liveblog)

Above: A chilly early-morning scene in the Schoharie County town of Esperance, taken Sunday morning by Flickr user A Man Called ACME. It's about to get chillier, as a front of Arctic air sends temperatures plunging across the Northeast. Photo shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group pool

Forget "Hercules": This week's bitter cold spell, setting in Monday and continuing until Wednesday, is set to eclipse last week's brief bout of subzero temperatures. A frigid front of Arctic air dubbed the "polar vortex" already has the Midwest in its icy grip, and by nightfall, will send temperatures plunging in the Northeast as well. 

Local forecasters at the National Weather Service in Binghamton are predicting that temperatures Monday night and Tuesday could be the coldest in a decade or more. In a detailed briefing issued Monday morning, NWS forecasters warned that Tuesday would be the coldest day of the cold snap, with temperatures down to 10 below zero or lower and wind chills of up to 30 to 35 below zero in their forecast area, which extends to the western Catskills. 

To the east, the National Weather Service's Albany station warned that the Hudson Valley and eastern Catskills -- which warmed up to the 40s and 50s on Monday -- would drop back below freezing on Monday afternoon

By midnight Monday, the entire Catskills region will be under either a wind chill advisory (Schoharie County) or a more serious wind chill warning (Delaware and Sullivan counties, Greene County and Ulster County).

With temperatures this low, power outages could be dangerous for those without backup generators or other heat sources. During last week's subzero cold snap, problems with a NYSEG substation transformer left over 4,000 homes in Delaware County without power for a few hours -- long enough to freeze pipes, for some. A spokesman for the utility said NYSEG workers are ready to respond quickly if another power outage occurs.

Generator safety is especially vital in cold weather. In November of 2012, two elderly Shokan residents died in their home after a power outage, when their gasoline-powered generator filled their house with carbon monoxide.

We're tracking the local impacts of the cold front in real time on Storify. Let us know of any road accidents, power outages or other issues in your neighborhood at [email protected], and we'll post them to the liveblog below. (We'll gladly share your gorgeous ice pictures, too.) The latest updates appear at the top of the liveblog.

 

Three arrested in snowmobile and drug burglaries

On Friday, New York State Police troopers announced the arrests of three Greene County residents on burglary charges in several incidents. 

In one incident, which occurred the day before New Year's Eve, someone broke into the Jefferson Heights Pharmacy in the town of Catskill and stole prescription medication. Arrested on Dec. 31 was 30-year-old Christopher Hale, a Catskill resident. Hale was charged with third-degree burglary and remanded to the Greene County Jail without bail. He was due to appear in Catskill town court at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 6.

In a separate pair of arrests, two Tannersville teenagers were arrested after an investigation into the theft of a snowmobile from the village of Tannersville on Dec. 27. Arrested on Dec. 30 were 16-year-old Cameron Parquez and 18-year-old Michael Martin. 

During the investigation, police also linked Parquez and Martin to a burglary at the Cortina Mountain Resort in Hunter that occurred earlier in December.  Read more