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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Storm stories

Some thoughts and observations about the ice storm that wreaked havoc in the Mid-Hudson Valley late Thursday and early Friday:

* I’m accustomed to power outages at my house in Kingston being fairly short-lived affairs – usually no more than a couple of hours – so I became increasingly frustrated as the Schiffres Family Blackout that began at 8:30 p.m. Thursday lingered past midnight, then through the wee hours of Friday, then past sunrise and midday before finally being resolved around 2:30 p.m. Friday. The 18 hours we spent without electricity – and heat – was quite a long stretch by our standards (possibly the longest ever), but then I started hearing that some of the 60,000 local customers who lost power in the storm would remain in the dark – and the cold – throughout the weekend, and perhaps into Monday or beyond. Suddenly my 18 hours of personal misery didn’t seem so miserable.

* Central Hudson Gas & Electric spokesman John Maserjian, in speaking with reporters on Friday, made the point that virtually no area of the region was untouched by power problems. A quick scan around the Freeman newsroom proved his point: Eight people among the dozen or so who were working with me on Friday lost electricity at their homes at some point on Thursday, and two of them were told by the utility that their lights may not come back on until Sunday.

* Along the same lines, I ran into a contractor friend of mine about 9:30 a.m. Friday in a diner in the town of Ulster – where Rhona, Marc and I had gone for breakfast because we couldn’t cook at home and didn’t want to open the refrigerator – and it struck me as odd that he was there at a time when he usually is working. The reason? The three houses where he currently is doing renovation work all lacked electricity.

* A suggestion to the person who chooses the music that plays while callers are on hold at Central Hudson's customer service number: “Let It Snow” is not what we want to hear while waiting to report a power outage caused by weather outside that’s frightful.

* Lastly, kudos to the Kingston school district for making two good calls in two days. Notorious for canceling school on days when the weather isn’t all that bad, the district stayed open on Thursday when the weather was a nuisance but not yet treacherous, and opted to close on Friday, a fairly nice day, cognizant of the fact that walkers and bus drivers could encounter downed trees and power lines around any corner. It was a day that called for a “better safe than sorry” approach, and Superintendent Jerry Gretzinger and his staff got it right.



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