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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 editor@watershedpost.com, 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.

 

Storm's over, but baby, it's cold outside

Above: The view from the newly-opened Windfall trail at Windham Mountain, where about a foot of light, powdery snow fell during the recent snowstorm. Belleayre, Hunter and Plattekill are also rejoicing in a bumper crop of fresh powder.

Skies over the Catskills are dazzling blue today, in the wake of a snowstorm that left over a foot of snow in some areas. But watch out -- with temperatures in the single digits, and expected to fall below zero overnight, it's still frostbite weather out there.   Read more

Cuomo closes I-87, I-84 and LIE for snowstorm

In a news conference this afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that several major roads in New York State would be closed late tonight because of the snowstorm bearing down on the Northeast.

In the Hudson Valley, I-84 will be closed to commercial traffic starting at 5 p.m. At midnight, I-84, the New York State Thruway south of Albany, and the Long Island Expressway will all be closed to all traffic. 

Officials tentatively plan to reopen the roads at 5 a.m., but will make a decision based on road conditions by 4 a.m., according to a report by the Associated Press.

A statewide state of emergency is in effect. In a post on his official Twitter account at 3:47 p.m., Cuomo urged New Yorkers to "stay off the roads if you can."

Winter storm warnings in effect across the Catskills

A snowstorm moving into upstate New York from the southwest is expected to dump heavy snow on the Catskills, starting this afternoon and continuing overnight. 

A combination of heavy snow, blowing winds and subzero temperatures will make travel in the region extremely dangerous during the fiercest part of the storm. Total snow accumulations should reach 6 to 12 inches across most of the Catskills, with up to 15 inches in some areas.  Read more

Eat, shop, gossip: Catskills general stores serve both food and community

Above: Lucky Dog Farm Store in Hamden sells local groceries and serves lunch. Photo by Richard A. Smith. 

In many ways, the Catskills region is the land that time forgot. Too rural to attract droves of big-box stores, and too stubborn to change fast, the little mountain towns are still home to many old traditions that have gone the way of the dodo elsewhere in the world. Among them is the old-fashioned general store, where residents and visitors alike can eat a home-cooked meal, pick up a few necessities and catch up on the latest news with friends and neighbors.  Read more

Former ARC employee accused of stealing from the disabled

An investigation by the New York State Attorney General's office has led to the arrest of a former assistant manager at the Schoharie County ARC, who has been accused of stealing money from developmentally disabled ARC residents' personal allowance accounts.

On Monday, Dec. 16, 31-year-old Samantha Cross was arrested and charged with one count of fourth-degree grand larceny and one count of first-degree falsifying business records, both class E felonies. According to a press release from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office, Cross used the personal accounts of ARC residents to buy herself over $1,000 worth of items between November 2011 and November 2012, including cell phones, calling cards, iTunes gift cards and groceries. 

The investigation was carried out after the Schoharie County ARC alerted Schneiderman's office to the alleged thefts, said Schoharie ARC director Anthony Alvarez in an interview with the Watershed Post.   Read more

Fund set up for Schoharie County girl whose teeth were pulled

A fund has been set up to benefit a developmentally disabled Schoharie County eight-year-old whose legal guardian is facing felony assault charges for pulling out three of her teeth with a pair of pliers, state police announced last week

The fund was set up at the Schoharie branch of NBT Bank by Schoharie County Social Services, the agency responsible for the girl's care. Funds made payable to "Paul Brady, Custodian" will be set aside for the girl's future needs, said Brady, commissioner of the agency.

"Long term, this child may not be in my care and custody forever. I'd like to establish this for her so as she gets older she can use it for whatever she'd like," he said.  Read more