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Sleet and ice accumulating across the western Catskills

Roads in the higher elevations of the Catskills are dangerously slick tonight, especially in the western Catskills counties of Delaware and Sullivan, where the National Weather Service's Binghamton office has issued a special weather bulletin about bands of snow and sleet moving through the area

Citizen reports coming into the NWS are indicating many accidents on the roads. Earlier this evening, Delaware County Fire Wire and Emergency News reported that first responders were on the scene at Exit 87 off Route 17 in Hancock, where a car went over the bank.   Read more

Flood watches in effect across the Catskills

A mix of heavy rains in the forecast, late-spring snow still clinging to mountain slopes, and still-frozen ground could be a recipe for flash flooding in the Catskills region Saturday night through Monday, forecasters warn. 

Heavy rain is expected to move into the region late Saturday, and continue through Sunday. Hudson Valley Weather is predicting two to three inches of rain across the Catskills and Hudson Valley  Read more

Homeowners hit by flooding face April 11 deadline for NY Rising help

A year after it was begun, a New York State program to help homeowners pay for damage inflicted by Irene, Lee and Sandy is coming to a close. The NY Rising Housing Recovery Program, which funds repair, mortgage assistance, flood mitigation and buyouts of damaged homes, has declared a deadline of April 11, 2014 for homeowners to apply for assistance.

The program has already paid out over $280 million to 6,388 homeowners around the state whose homes were damaged, according to a press release announcing the deadline.

Catskills residents interested in applying to the program are encouraged to attend one of NY Rising's upcoming outreach events, scheduled in several locations around the region for this Saturday, March 29. The events will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the following locations:   Read more

Maple Weekend isn't over yet

Above: The entries in the "traditional" category of the Fleischmanns First Maple Festival's annual Maple Bake-Off, which was held last Saturday. Photo by Michelle Sidrane. 

The great thing about Maple Weekend is that it's actually two weekends.

Yes, you've got another chance this Saturday and Sunday to taste the first syrup of the 2014 maple season at sap houses and sugar bushes around the Catskills region. Try it fresh out of the evaporator, poured over pancakes, or baked into cookies, cakes, and doughnuts.

Pick up a free copy of the Catskills Food Guide while you're at it: our partners at Shaver-Hill Farm, Roxbury Mountain Maple, and the Frost Valley YMCA all have copies onhand to browse during the maple festivities.  Read more

Next up: April showers

Photo by Lissa Harris.

Snow flurries heralded the first day of spring in the upper altitudes of the Catskills today, and there's a chance for more snow showers on Friday. But on Margaretville's Main Street, snowdrops blooming in front of the village hall serve as a reminder that spring is just around the corner -- even if it doesn't feel like it. 

Maple Weekend on tap: March 22-23 and 29-30

Above: Old-fashioned aprons hang in a Main Street window in Fleischmanns for the annual Maple Bake Off. Photo courtesy of Fleischmanns First.

The sights, sounds and smells of sap boiling in the sugarhouse mean that sweetness, like springtime, is just around the corner.

Syrupmaking is about as historic and local and hands-on as food production ges -- and nothing beats that flavor. Shake off the late-winter blahs and come celebrate Maple Weekend -- actually two weekends of open houses -- in the sugar shacks of the Catskills. Listed below are events that are within the Watershed Post's coverage area; a statewide list of all 146 locations can be found at mapleweekend.com.

Unless otherwise specified, the syrup-crafters listed below will be welcoming company on all four days of Maple Weekend: March 22-23, and March 29-30. Many visits and tours are free; there may be additional charges for breakfasts, pony rides, and other treats.  Read more

Catskills villages head for the polls March 18

Illustration by Flickr user Adreson Vita Sá; published under Creative Commons license.

'Tis the season for green beer -- and rural voting. The day after St. Patrick's Day, New York State's littlest municipalities head for the polls to pick their elected officials.

Most of New York State's villages will hold elections on Tuesday, March 18, although a few opt to hold them at the same time as local elections in November, or at another time in the year. 

In the Catskills, most village elections are a sleepy affair, with few contested races. A couple of local villages this year have open posts for which no one is running, leaving the race wide open to write-in candidates. 

On the other hand, this year's election showdown between incumbents and Rural Heritage challengers in the Sullivan County village of Bloomingburg promises to generate more than enough drama for the whole region. Early Thursday morning, FBI agents swarmed the village, targeting properties owned by controversial developer Shalom Lamm, who recently bought several buildings and has apparently filled them with newly registered voters. If the FBI finds evidence of corruption in Bloomingburg, Lamm's apparent effort to sway election results in the tiny village of just over 400 residents could backfire. 

  Read more

Rabid raccoon found in Stamford

A raccoon that attacked a dog in the Delaware County village of Stamford has tested positive for rabies, county health officials announced Thursday.

It is the first animal in the county to be found with rabies in 2014. No rabid animals were found in Delaware County in 2013, according to county health educator Heather Warner.

The raccoon was captured and killed, and sent to the state rabies laboratory for testing. On Thursday, March 13, the laboratory reported that the animal had tested positive for rabies. 

According to a press release from Delaware County Public Health Services, the dog's owner said that the attack occurred during the day, which is unusual behavior for healthy raccoons.  Read more

A dog's untimely death in the Catskills sends a message

Above: Alan Via and Bookah on the trail. Photo by Joanne Hihn, who also took the photos used in the Times Union's story; reproduced by permission.

In her nine brief years on the planet, the four-legged Bookah racked up more hiking experience than most humans. With her owner, author and well-known local outdoorsman Alan Via, Bookah scaled all 35 of the Catskills' tallest peaks, earning the chocolate lab her own 3500 Club certificate.

But Bookah's mountaineering skills couldn't save her from a fate every dog owner dreads. While on a hike with Via in a remote and trailless area in the southwestern Catskills, Bookah ate a piece of meat that had been laced with the fast-acting poison strychnine, and died before Via could get her out of the woods.  Read more

This weekend: Margaretville syrup-making workshop

Above: A man and his evaporator: Mike Porter in his Margaretville sugar house. Photo courtesy of the Catskill Forest Association. 

Warm during the day, and below freezing at night: It's the beginning of maple syrup season. Maple producers across the Catskills have spent the past few months laboriously tapping maple trees, and now it's time to gather the sap and boil it down to make syrup.

It takes anywhere from 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of maple syrup, so producers are about to spend the rest of the month next to their evaporators.

The season gets into full swing on March 22 when producers across the state open their sugar houses during Maple Weekend. (Stay tuned for our guide to maple weekend, coming out next week.)

But if you're desperate for a taste of the sweet stuff early, you can get a sneak preview of a working sugar house at a Catskill Forest Association workshop in Margaretville this Saturday.  Read more