Powerless: Western Woodstock hit hard by storm

Route 212 in Bearsville: The cause of many problems west of town. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Parts of Woodstock, especially the town’s western sector, remained without electricity on Wednesday, October 31, the third day after punishing winds from Hurricane Sandy toppled trees onto power lines along Route 212 in Bearsville, on Glasco Turnpike west of Rock City Road, and in the outlying hamlets.

Initially, said Woodstock fire chief Michael Densen, the storm hit hardest in the middle of town, darkening the hamlet’s shops on October 29 and prompting a stream of calls to Fire Company No. 1, based in Bearsville. While electric service had returned to much of the eastern and central portions of town, including the hamlet business district, by the evening of October 30, the outage persisted the following day in the western areas, Densen reported in a late-morning interview on October 31.


According to Densen, most or all of the town’s area west of the intersection of Route 212 and Ricks Road in Bearsville, near the Sunfrost Farms produce market, was still without power at the time of the interview. Compounding the hardship, the western part of Woodstock lacks cellular service from the town-owned tower at California Quarry.

The chief attributed the widespread outage mainly to disabled power lines at two locations: the site on Route 212 near Sunfrost and points along Glasco Turnpike between Rock City Road and the turnpike’s western terminus in Shady. Shortly after noon on October 31, damaged power lines, tagged with emergency tape, dangled on the south side of Glasco Turnpike between Rock City Road and Lower Byrdcliffe Road and, most ominously, on the north edge of Lower Byrdcliffe where the road loops back toward the hamlet from Glasco Turnpike.

Densen said that he expected much of the affected area was likely to regain power once Central Hudson crews restored the disabled lines at the two locations. The prognosis might not be so favorable, however, for the hamlets of Shady, Lake Hill, and Willow. Depending on local conditions in those areas, the restoration of power could take days to complete, the chief said.

Apart from causing the nearly townwide loss of electricity, the so-called superstorm appeared to leave Woodstock largely intact. “We had no ambulance calls or health problems, no one looking for shelter, and no evacuations,” said Densen. The chief described Fire Company No. 1 as busy during the storm and its immediate aftermath, responding to more than 50 calls, most involving trees and power lines felled by the storm’s winds. No flooding was reported. Call volumes for the Fire Department’s other companies, such as No. 2 (Wittenberg) and No. 3 (Lake Hill), were normal.

Central Hudson, whose repair crews were reportedly working around the clock, commandeered the Company No. 1 firehouse and grounds as a staging area. “The firehouse is functioning as ‘Central Hudson Central,’” said Densen. The utility serves approximately 300,000 electricity and 75,000 natural gas customers in an eight-county coverage area in the Mid Hudson Valley. As of October 31, electric power had been restored to 60 percent of Central Hudson’s affected customers, according to the company’s website.

Judy Peters, who is secretary and treasurer of the Woodstock Fire District, noted that Hurricane Sandy had not prompted the Red Cross to establish an emergency shelter at Fire Company No. 5, known as the rescue squad, whose facility on Route 212 lies just west of the Sunfrost site at 217 Tinker Street.


Problem areas

The emergency near the Sunfrost location in the Bearsville corridor occurred when four or five pine trees on private property along Route 212 brought down nearby power lines, said Densen, who described the stand of trees as “consistently a major problem whenever there is a storm.” Glasco Turnpike has also been a local epicenter for storm-related disruptions, with fallen trees implicated in widespread power outages during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Irene in 2011.

Meanwhile, Woodstock residents sprang into action as early as last weekend in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival. Cars lined up at gas pumps from the Kingston Thruway exit to Tinker Street, while shoppers emptied store shelves of bottled water, batteries, candles, ice, and packaged food.

An October 30 search for D batteries at multiple locations in Woodstock, including both of the town’s hardware stores, came up empty. Stops throughout Kingston — at Herzog’s, Walgreen’s, and an auto parts store in Kingston Plaza; and subsequently at Home Depot, Office Depot, Best Buy, Target, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, in and around the Hudson Valley Mall — proved similarly fruitless. Finally, miraculously, a visit to Radio Shack in the mall unearthed a stockpile of the precious Ds.

A young woman from Willow waited on line at Radio Shack to buy a charger for her cellphone. A transformer on Ostrander Road had exploded, sending a shock through her house, she said, adding that parts of Route 28 west of Woodstock had been closed. Without power in Willow, she hoped to stay with a friend in Phoenicia, where the lights were still on, at least for the moment.

George Pattison