Governor lends hand to region’s storm recovery effort

Published Mar 16, 2017 at 12:04pm

As Oneida County dug out Wednesday from a major winter storm, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo flew into the county airport to announce the state was joining the effort.

The governor said 55 pieces of snow-fighting equipment and 100 New York Army National Guard members were being brought in to assist in the recovery from several feet of snow.

“We are redeploying the assets on the state side, we are moving equipment and personnel from other parts of the state to come and help Oneida, Utica and Rome,” Cuomo told government officials, a contingent of Guard members and reporters at Griffiss International Airport.

It was one of three appearances by Cuomo around the state on Wednesday to assess the storm cleanup efforts. The event at Griffiss lasted about 30 minutes. It was onto Dutchess County a short time later. 

Much of the local focus is on Utica because the storm whacked the county’s largest city hard.

Stuck vehicles, including medical and police units, as well as abandoned ones, were a major problem as the city crews tried to clear the streets of snow Tuesday evening. Estimates put the snowfall at 33 inches and higher in the city. The accumulation in Rome was less, around 22 to 24 inches.

“We have many, many vehicles at this point that are still stranded based on the volume of snow that has come down,” said Utica Mayor Robert M. Palmieri. 

Referencing the officials standing with him around the lectern, he said, “And I’m very very honored at this point to say, if you look behind me, I think we have the cavalry at our hands.”

In addition to the governor, there were County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo, Sheriff Robert M. Maciol, county Emergency Services Director Kevin W. Revere, state Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll and National Guard representatives, among others.

Parked outside the terminal building were examples of the equipment that’s being brought to battle what Mother Nature dumped on the area Tuesday and early Wednesday. Additionally, there were National Guard vehicles in the parking lot, providing visual evidence of the manpower being brought in to supplement the local efforts.

“The problem with this storm was the rate of the falling snow, and you can’t keep up with snow that’s coming down at three, four, or five inches per hour,” said Cuomo. “That is the difference with this storm. The plows are basically ineffective and it was the rate of snowfall that was highly problematic here. So it’s not just removing the snow, it was keeping up with the rate which was actually an impossibility.”

He then spoke to the issue of stranded and abandoned vehicles.

“Now you have a stuck vehicle in the middle of the road, and that stops other vehicles from getting past. That stops the plow truck from getting past. And now it is a real problem to untangle all of that,” said Cuomo. “That’s where we are in parts of Utica, especially downtown Utica.”

Picente offered some numbers as he sought to put the storm’s magnitude in perspective.

“The 911 center took over 800 calls and over 3,000 altogether that came in — in various lines throughout this storm,” said the county executive.

Additionally, Picente said that first responders went to more than 1,000 incidents around the county between 7 a.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Cuomo, Palmieri and Picente all praised the cooperation between their levels of government as each responded to the storm.

The governor arrived aboard the state’s Beechcraft Super King Air 200 turboprop plane. He landed shortly before 2 p.m. By traveling across the state by air, the governor is able to hit numerous events in a day. For example, on Wednesday he made appearances in Broome, Oneida and Dutchess counties to weigh in on the winter storm. The stops were preceded by a storm briefing in New York City.

No nano talk

The speakers kept their comments on the storm and the response to it. There was no mention of Austrian computer chip maker ams AG backing out of plans to operate a state-owned factory at the Marcy Nanocenter.

Cuomo headlined an event on the SUNY Polytechnic Institute campus in August 2015 to announce that the firm was going to operate a computer chip wafer fabrication factory. 

However, the company abandoned the project some 15 months later, and much of the blame was attributed to the state because of delays that derailed the construction timetable.

Despite a formal groundbreaking ceremony in April, actual construction never started.

Commercial production was to have begun in early 2018.

Wednesday apparently was Cuomo’s first appearance in the county since July when the governor was part of a motorcycle tour that made a brief stop to promote breast cancer