'Unusually' intense, record storm knocks power to over 200 000 customers in Capital District - New York, U.S.

'Unusually' intense, record storm knocks power to over 200 000 customers in Capital District - New York, U.S.

A powerful thunderstorm hit New York's Capital District on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, leaving more than 200 000 customers without power and killing at least two people. The storm was described as an "unusual event" wit winds of 109 km/h (68 mph) -- the highest daily gust for the month of October, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) Albany. This now ranks as one of the strongest severe weather events for 2020 in the United States.

A sudden storm knocked down trees and power grids, leaving more than 200 000 customers without power in the area. 

According to National Grid spokeswoman Virginia Limmiatis, the region has not experienced outages this widespread in more than a decade.

"The last time we would’ve seen 200 000-plus customers out and that widespread damage, probably was back in 2008 with the ice storm," she remarked.

"This was an intense storm. We’ve been having crews work throughout the night and they’ll continue to be working under these challenging conditions."

In an update posted on Thursday, October  8, National Grid said more than 2 000 workers continue to make progress after the storm. So far, service has been restored to almost 135 000.

"This storm has been extremely damaging to our electricity system," said Matt Barnett, Vice President of New York Electric Operations.

New York State mesonet weather stations recorded widespread wind gusts between 80 and 95 km/h (50 and 60 mph) down the Mohawk Valley into the Greater Capital District with a 107 km/h (67 mph) wind gust measurement at the Albany International Airport.

This ranks as the highest gust for the month of October with records dating back to 1987. The fact that trees across the region were fully leafed exasperated the resulting wind damage and produced widespread power outages.

"The wind speed did break a record for the day," said Mike Evans of the NWS Albany.

"It’s definitely an unusual event. It would be a little bit more typical to see something like this in the summer, but really, to see this at any point in the year, I would consider it fairly unusual."

"What’s interesting about this case was that it was a widespread area that got hit. So it’s hard to say what areas got hit the worst — Schenectady, Albany, Troy, they all got hit very badly. The whole Capital District did, up in Saratoga County to Mohawk Valley, toward Amsterdam."

As a result of the severe weather, two people have lost their lives. State Police reported that a 24-year-old man was driving on Pierce Road when a tree collapsed into his car, killing him.

In the Berkshires, the Great Barrington Police reported a casualty at the Wyantenuck Country Club-- fallen trees and branches crashed into a man's golf cart, claiming the golfer's life.

"The culprit for this weather event was an intensifying low-pressure system that progressed eastward from Ontario, Canada into northern New England. Its initially positively tilted parent trough became negatively tilted as it swung through the region," NWS explained.

"This ranks as one of the strongest severe weather events for 2020 with only the May 15, 2020, severe weather event leading to similar widespread wind damage."

Featured image credit: Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara

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