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Boiceville's Parete seizes Ulster Legislature chair with GOP help

Above: "This is a life expectancy, folks," says John Parete, the new chairman of the Ulster County Legislature, holding up a tailor's tape measure. "Well, on the average, that's what I got left. And I'm not going to spend one minute anymore on partisan politics or bickering.” Video shot by the Daily Freeman's Patricia Doxsey at a January 7 meeting of the Ulster County Legislature. 

John Parete, a longtime Ulster County Democratic operative, allied himself with 10 Republicans and two rogue Democrats to seize the chairmanship of the Ulster County Legislature last night in a 13-10 vote, according to the Daily Freeman and the Times Herald-Record

Parete's unlikely bi-partisan coalition torpedoed the plan of the rest of the chamber's Democrats, who regained a majority in the legislature this November after being the minority for years, to install Democrat Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz as chairman

A similar cross-party coup happened in the county legislature in 1999, according to the Daily Freeman:

In 1999, [Phil] Sinagra, R-Hurley, was poised to be elected chairman of the Legislature, but Democrats joined forces with some Republicans to stage an 11th-hour coup, resulting in the election of Daniel Alfonso, R-Highland, as chairman.

This time, the power play put a Catskills local in charge.  Read more

Power outages strike in Woodstock and Olive

Above: Screenshot from Central Hudson's outage map showing widespread power outages in the Ulster County towns of Woodstock and Olive. 

On Tuesday evening, with temperatures in the single digits and subzero wind chills, Central Hudson was reporting widespread power outages in the Ulster County towns of Woodstock and Olive. 

As of around 10 p.m., 1,841 Central Hudson customers were without power: 1,073 in Woodstock, 741 in Olive, 23 in Hurley and four in Denning.

According to the Central Hudson website, the Woodstock and Olive outages were expected to be resolved by 11:30 p.m. No restoration time was listed for the Hurley or Denning outages.

Some outages also occurred in the area early Tuesday morning and throughout the day, according to reports on social media. Information on the cause of the outages was not immediately available.  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

Meet Ulster County's spiffy new website

Above: A screenshot of Ulster County's new website, online at ulstercountyny.gov. The photo in the shot -- one of a series promoting Ulster County tourism -- is "Big Air At Belleayre," by local photographer Franz Edlinger.

Launched today: A new and improved website for Ulster County, boasting greater user-friendliness, increased access to government information, and a bunch of photos showing off some of the county's prettiest scenery, from Belleayre to the Rondout waterfront.

The county's new site is ADA-compliant, and will feature a site-wide emergency alert banner with critical information during emergencies. 

The website's architects at Next Step Digital, the Kingston digital design and marketing business that built the site, are proud of their work:  Read more

Catskill Mountain Railroad to Ulster County: Let's make a deal

Above: One of the Catskill Mountain Railroad's Alco trains, running on the Kingston end of the old Ulster & Delaware corridor. Photo from the Catskill Mountain Railroad's Facebook page

A rail trail deal struck last week between Ulster County and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection may be the death knell to the Catskill Mountain Railroad's long-held goal of restoring train service all the way across the county, in an unbroken route from Kingston to Shandaken. 

But CMRR chairman Harry Jameson is willing to give up the dream, if it means the railroad can keep running trains in Kingston.   Read more