Ice storm cripples Saratoga area as residents struggle to stay warm

Downed power lines weighted by inch-thick ice cut off power throughout the day Monday and into Tuesday in Saratoga County.

Malta and Ballston Spa were the hardest hit, and people there hunkered down by fireplaces to keep family members and pets warm, and worked to prevent frozen pipes.

With area students home from school and some parents spending the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday at home, more than 40,000 Saratoga County people remained without power throughout the day and into the chilly night Monday.

By Tuesday morning, that figure went down to 26,000 homes, but thousands were still without power Tuesday.

More than 300 National Grid workers, assisted by other power companies, including Con Ed, used the triage system, fixing power lines that affected the most number of homes and businesses first, then progressing to smaller lines.

In the Village of Ballston Spa, police received more than 200 calls from concerned residents Monday and Tuesday, as parts of the village remained without power all day Tuesday.

It was a zoo around here, said Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano, who spent two days helping field calls at the police department. "We didn't open our emergency shelter at the village library, because people didn't want to leave their homes."

Romano said the village's emergency medical crews responded to several calls from residents who mistakenly put their generators inside their homes, and suffered side effects from the fumes.

In Malta, the spacious community center was opened as a warming center and overnight shelter, offering soup, coffee and potable water to anyone in need.

Tuesday night, volunteer members of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) manned the community center to make residents comfortable.

"People are coming in and out to get warm," said Gary Lewandowski, one of the CERT coordinators. "We've had a lot of little dogs brought in wearing jackets but still cold. We hope we won't need to be open all week, but we'll be here 24/7 until all Malta residents have power." Ballston Spa Central Schools closed Tuesday, but re-opened Wednesday after power was restored to the school buildings. Despite the fact that some of the students would be returning to school from cold homes, district officials said the classrooms would be a good daytime shelter.

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