A series of powerful thunderstorms tore through the Tri-Lakes area Tuesday afternoon, toppling trees into power lines and across roads, capsizing campers' canoes and leaving several thousand people without power, cable and Internet service.
Lake Placid was perhaps hit hardest: Waterfront camps and the village water plant were damaged, power went out, and some roads were closed.
The storms also drenched the area in much-needed rain, although it's not certain whether that will curtail the dry conditions that have led to more than a dozen forest fires in the Adirondacks over the past two weeks.
This fallen white pine brought traffic to a halt for about half an hour on state Route 3 near the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club during one of the thunderstorms that passed through the area on Tuesday.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Power, cable, Internet
As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, about 6,000 National Grid customers in the Tri-Lakes were without power according to utility company spokeswoman Wendy Ladd. As of this morning, that number had been reduced to 2,500, Ladd said.
"We expect to have them back up by late afternoon today," she said. "We are making progress, so that's good news."
The storm also affected Time Warner's cable and Internet service in the area, both of which were down for several hours until they came back on around 9:30 p.m.
"It was all storm-related," said Time Warner spokeswoman Stephanie Salanger. "We have to wait until the power company gets everything up and running, and then we can move in and try to restore things as quick as possible."
The Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department responded to between 50 and 60 storm-related incidents, ranging from trees blocking roads to downed power lines to broken utility poles with transformers on the ground, according to fire Driver Matt Colby.
Village Mayor Craig Randall said downed pine trees damaged the roof of the village's water filtration plant on George and Bliss Lane. He said the facility is operating OK and that the village's insurance company has authorized officials to make emergency repairs. A roofing company is expected to assess the damage this morning.
Some of the worst damage was reported on Whiteface Inn Lane and along the shore of Lake Placid. Mark Wilson, president of the Lake Placid Shore Owners Association, said he ventured out onto the lake to assess the damage after the storm.
"Any land that was western facing was hit hard," Wilson said. "Entire 30- to 40-foot stretches of shoreline were just peeled back like a tent flap, with trees toppling on properties. Our property was hit bad; both our neighbors had trees land on their houses."
Wilson said large stretches of the Shoreline and Peninsula trails were damaged severely. He noted that the tour boat known as the Doris was out on the lake in the middle of the storm, but it didn't capsize and made it to shore safely.
The shore owners' group is asking people to avoid the dam on the west side of the lake.
"We're going to have volunteer repair crews picking up downed trees tomorrow morning," Wilson said.
Ruisseaumont Way and Seneca Trail remain closed to traffic this morning.
The fire department's first call came in at about 4:20 p.m., and crews didn't return to service until after 11 p.m., Colby said. Five trucks - including the department's brand-new aerial ladder truck - and 33 members responded.
Colby said on a scale of 1 to 10, he'd rate the damage a 7 or 8.
Residents on Whiteface Inn Lane, the west shore of Lake Placid and Ruisseaumont Way were still without power this morning, Colby said. Whiteface Inn Lane was closed for a while Tuesday evening, he said, as four or five utility poles and many trees fell down there.
"A car was trapped under one, but there were no injures," Colby said.
"The guys worked very hard," he added. "We had a good turnout."
Randall said the "center core" of the village didn't see a lot of damage. He said segments of Mirror Lake Drive, Stevens Road and Interlaken Avenue had a significant number of trees and power lines down.
Randall said River Road was also closed briefly so crews could remove trees there.
Colby said the fire department was ready for the storm before it hit.
"Normally, the way the weather comes through, Saranac Lake goes out before we do," he said.
The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded to 10 calls during the storm, the first wave of which hit around 4 p.m.
"It was pretty chaotic for a while," said fire Chief Brendan Keough, "mostly trees in power lines and storm-related damage. The phone rang nonstop for an hour-and-a-half, sometimes multiple people reporting the same calls and lots of other good-intent calls."
The department helped rescue a group of campers whose canoes capsized on Middle Saranac Lake during the storm. State Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Lisa King, in Albany, said a group of 28 campers who had come north from Plast Camp, a Ukrainian children's camp in East Chatham in the Hudson Valley, were on the lake when 14 of their canoes capsized around 5:30 p.m. Five of the campers were injured. King said she didn't know the extent of their injuries but didn't think they were serious.
The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded with a boat and transported the injured campers to a beach, from which they hiked a trail to the highway and were taken by ambulance to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, King said.
Keough said the fire department arranged transportation for the rest of the group to the Best Western Mountain Lake Inn in Saranac Lake using a bus provided by the Saranac Lake Central School District.
Keough said the department was also called to large trees blocking state Route 3 between Saranac Lake and Bloomingdale. At least one of those trees had fallen onto power lines, he said.
In the village, high winds from the storm toppled trees and power lines near the corner of Cedar Street and Broadway, and also on Hope Street and Glenwood Drive. Firefighters provided traffic control at each scene and stood by until National Grid arrived. There were scattered power outages in parts of the village.
A total of 23 Saranac Lake firefighters, five drivers and six trucks were involved in the storm response.
"We had a great response, and we were able to cover all the calls," Keough said.
In Tupper Lake, village police officer Mike Vaillancourt said the weather wasn't too bad. The Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department and village electric crews were dispatched a few times, but Tupper Lakers never lost power, Vaillancourt said.
The fire department responded to Moss Rock Road in the town of Santa Clara due to numerous trees blown down on power lines because of high winds. Two trucks and 18 members responded at 6:02 p.m. and stood by until crews from National Grid arrived to remove the trees from the power lines.
They responded to state Route 30 south near Hemlock Ledge Road to trees on power lines and wires arching due to the winds. One truck and 18 members responded at 6:34 p.m. and stood by until a Tupper Lake village electric crew arrived, and they were back in service at 7:58 p.m.
The TLVFD also stood by at the Saranac Lake fire station from 4:25 to 6:01 p.m. with two trucks and eight members. During that time, 14 members also stood by at the Tupper Lake fire station.
Elsewhere, a section of state Route 30 between Paul Smiths and Lake Clear was shut down due to numerous trees and power lines downed across the road by the storm. Ray Brook-based state police also reported trees across the road on Route 30 north of Paul Smiths, near Barnum Pond.
The Paul Smiths-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department responded to roughly 10 calls of "trees blocking roads and power lines down all throughout Paul Smiths," according to a news release signed by fire Chief Roger Smith. The first call came in just after 4 p.m., and the department's members were back in service at 6:51 p.m., Smith said.
DEC Region 5 Operations Supervisor Jim McEnaney said Tuesday night that high winds toppled a bunch of trees at the department's Fish Creek, Rollins Pond and Meacham Lake campgrounds. Crews were working to cut and remove the trees, he said.
The Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department responded to a pair of calls during the storm, according to Second Assistant Chief Mike Cassavaugh. A report of a large tree across county Route 55, the Bloomingdale-Gabriels road, sent the department into action at 4:20 p.m. The tree lay across several power lines and snapped a primary line. Firefighters stood by until a National Grid crew arrived, Cassavaugh said.
High winds also knocked a tree into a power line at 89 Swinyer Road. The power line ended up in the road and was still down as of 9 p.m. Tuesday. Cassavaugh said firefighters were relieved from the site as there was no estimated time of arrival for a National Grid crew, and the power was off the line.
A total of 17 firefighters responded to the two calls, Cassavaugh said.
While the rain helped, Keough said he doesn't think it was enough to curb the high forest fire danger.
"It'll probably minimize it a little bit, but I think a lot of that rain - and if I had to guess, and I'm not a forester - it's so dry, and it came down so hard and so quick, a lot of it probably just ran right off the top. We'll take all the rain we can get. But I think a good week of soaking rain would be what we'd really need."
Keough said lightning strikes from the storms could have also triggered new fires that will burn in the ground for a day or two before being spotted.