By Paul Hemmer
SULLIVAN COUNTY March 6, 2001 As the Northeast braces for the fury of the forecasted classic Noreaster which is currently dumping snow on the area, DPW crews and emergency services personnel say theyre ready.
County Manager Dan Briggs was on the job at 7 a.m. Monday making sure that, despite the projected two to three feet of snow, vital services were operating smoothly.
"I have been coordinating with Acting Emergency Management Director Dick Martinkovic this morning as well as the State Police and Sheriffs Department. The wisest thing is to advise people to stay off the roads unless it is an emergency," Briggs said. "Our county DPW is tracking the storm on several different fronts, and they are ready to deal with it."
Sullivan County Department of Public Works Commissioner Pete Lilholt expressed confidence with his departments ability to handle the storm.
"For now, its business as usual," Lilholt said. "We are out there right now clearing snow with our crews around the clock."
According to Lilholt, the county DPW, which operates out of four facilities located in Barryville, Callicoon, Harris and Livingston Manor, has 24 heavy-duty trucks on the road manned by two teams of 40 men, each working 16-hour shifts straight through whatever the storm may bring.
"Once the snow piles up to where it becomes too difficult for our trucks to clear it far enough off the road, we have six graders on standby around the county that will do the job," said Lilholt. "We have adequate supplies of sand, salt and fuel for the equipment to see us through."
At the countys 911 Center in White Lake, Acting Emergency Management Director and Deputy Fire Coordinator Dick Martinkovic was standing in for a vacationing Harold Kronenberg. (Although Martinkovic didnt mention it, those who have worked with Kronenberg for some time joke that hes always out of the county when a major snowstorm hits.)
Martinkovic expressed confidence in the countys communications hub in its ability to handle whatever comes their way. He described some of the activities underway as a result of the storm.
"We know that several fire departments will be doing in-house stand-bys this evening," Martinkovic said. "Weve been conferencing with the State Police, Sheriffs Department, DOT and DPW as well as the State Office of Emergency Management to ensure our readiness.
There has also been a very successful radio campaign which has warned people to stay off the roads due to the hazardous conditions, he continued. So far, public cooperation has been very good.
As Martinkovic pointed out, several fire departments were already gearing up for a higher level of response due to weather conditions, taking such precautions as keeping fire stations manned during the worst of the storm.
Sunday morning, Liberty Fire Chief Joe Maxwell was considering keeping Libertys three stations manned that night.
"Having personnel in the station cuts down response time considerably," Maxwell said. "This way, we can have a truck out on the road that much quicker without worrying about personnel trying to get to the firehouse on bad roads."
Monticello firefighters had implemented the same action by 11 p.m. Sunday. Monticello career firefighter Keith Kurthy, who was on duty Monday, said that this would continue throughout the storm.
"We started our stand-by crews at 11 Sunday night," said Kurthy. "By midday today, we will be manning the station again, and all four of our paid personnel will be on duty as well."
Although mass transportation like Shortline and Greyhound buses even mail service is at a virtual standstill, these crews and the local Red Cross are already fanned out throughout the county to handle whatever emergencies exist.
Yesterday, County Manager Briggs pretty much summed up how everyone was dealing with the situation.
"Living here all our lives, most of us have been through this type of thing before," Briggs said. "We will adjust accordingly to the conditions as they develop, and we have several contingency plans in place to help us deal with whatever happens."
Mindful that it takes more than just plans to deal with this sort of storm, Briggs was quick to give credit where it was due.
"We couldnt do this without the people who work for the county, towns and villages who go out there and take care of the roads," said Briggs. "They do an excellent job and are often taken for granted. We are indebted to them and all the police and emergency services personnel who put in that extra effort during situations such as these."
If You Need Help
Local officials are urging everyone to stay off the roads today not only so that crews can clear them, but so that you are not unnecessarily endangered by the treacherous conditions.
If you do need help, whether on the road or off, use the following numbers:
For emergencies, dial 911.
For non-emergencies, we suggest calling the Red Cross local chapter at 583-8340.