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Throwback Thursday: Freak Storm

The storm hits Dutch Quad on Oct. 4, 1987, at left, while at right a broken tree no longer shades the entrance to a hall on downtown's Alumni Quad. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 5, 2017) — One day before, leaves had danced upon tree limbs in their festive autumnal display. A day later, they were not so much lost as were the limbs themselves, and very often the trees with them. And, when the trees fell, they took with them power lines, more trees and even telephone poles.

Normally, 6.5 inches of snow in Albany would be taken in typical winter boot stride. But that would be on very late fall and winter days. A particular historic snowstorm hit 30 years ago yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 4, 1987, when trees were still burgeoning with foliage. By mid-morning, each leaf had become a small clingy white blanket. Ounces of ice crystals upon each collectively added up to extra pounds upon branches, and then tens of pounds, and finally hundreds of pounds — and trees fell.

More than 170,000 residences lost power in Albany, Schenectady and Columbia counties, where in outlying areas the snow totals approached 20 inches. More than half of customers were powerless beyond a day, some went without electricity for a week or more. School districts were shut down that same range of time.

UAlbany? Classes opened as usual on Monday. The Uptown Campus, with its own power plant unimpinged by trees and power lines, was largely unscathed, save a brief outage in Zenger Hall on Colonial. Trees and limbs naturally cracked and fell, requiring weeks of clean-up.

Much harder hit, however, were the downtown dorms, due to their reliance on city power lines. Alden and Waterbury halls had electricity restored by Monday, but Sayles, Brubacher and Pierce remained without heat, power and hot water into Tuesday. Alternate housing was found uptown for students uncomfortable with darkness and chill. Others were encouraged to seek housing with friends in power-possessing dorms or in off-campus dwellings.

Power was mostly restored by Tuesday, but the downed limbs (some which crushed cars) lingered a while, even in Albany. More than a year later, parts of fallen trees could still be seen along the Thruway, Taconic Parkway and other roadways south of the city.

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