Sen. Griffo and Sen. Ritchie visit Potsdam to assess storm damage
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 4:58 pm

This tree was split during the Tuesday storm near Maxcy Hall at SUNY Potsdam. Two buildings at the school received significant roof damage. Carson Hall lost slate tiles while Stowell hall sustained more serious damage. Downed trees damaged two unoccupied vehicles in the campus parking lots. Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie visited the college Tuesday to assess the damage. (Photo by Maggie Maroney)

By CRAIG FREILICH

POTSDAM – Politicians, police, local government employees and Homeland Security representatives met today in a series of briefings and meetings examining the emergency response to Tuesday’s violent storm and what more needs to be done.

Meanwhile, the Sergi’s Restaurant building that lost its roof in the storm has been condemned. At Evans & White Hardware, which also lost significant parts of its roof, the roof has been patched.

The powerful storm hit Potsdam at about 3:30 p.m. yesterday, ripping up trees and peeling away roofs. Power lines were down and electricity and cable service were out in some places for hours, and electricity is still to be restored in some places.

Today, the meeting room over the Potsdam Fire Department building was filled with representatives of village and town government, emergency agency administrators from the village, county, the state, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, representatives from the two colleges in Potsdam, the state DOT and local highway departments, among others.

They were joined in the morning by state Sen. Patty Ritchie, who does not represent Potsdam but who felt compelled to attend due to her association with St. Lawrence County, and this afternoon by state Sen. Joe Griffo, who does represent Potsdam.

Both representatives went to tour the damage after their meetings with officials.

One participant in the meetings characterized them as “briefings and updates, not critiques. There was discussion about satisfying unmet needs, some remaining issues such as equipment to help with cleanup. It was, ‘We have that equipment, you can use it.’”

One official of state emergency management, who asked not to be identified since he had no authorization to speak with the press, said he was impressed by the amount of cooperation among local and state agencies and utilities. For instance, he noted that when power was out at senior housing complexes, power was quickly re-routed and restored.

He said the discussion centered on identifying “what still needed to be done,” particularly cleanup of debris.

Mayor Steve Yurgartis said the briefings had shown him how quickly a lot of help got to where it was needed.

“And I learned that the best help is our own local volunteers,” Yurgartis said.

Andy Martin, the village’s just-appointed interim code enforcement officer, reported that the roof at Evans and White Hardware had been patched. The building housing Sergi’s Italian Restaurant at 10 Market Street, the roof of which was entirely ripped away, has been condemned, meaning that the building could not be occupied until repairs were done.

Martin said an engineer would be looking at the structure to redesign the roof. He said the restaurant was restorable, but that upstairs, “the tenant spaces are done.”

Sen. Griffo, whose district includes the town of Potsdam, arrived in the afternoon for a briefing.

He said he was with Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning, “and I spoke with the governor about the situation.” He said he told the governor that state resources had been put to use rapidly. “And he asked me to express his support,” Griffo said.

Also attending were representatives of both SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University. Buildings at both institutions were damaged and both campuses were without power following the storm.