The Official Commemorative Ice Storm Patch
In January 1998 one of those defining moments in a department's history occured. Freezing rain lasting some 36 hours left a coating of ice on everything. The weight of the ice brought down trees and power poles. Roads were blocked by broken poles and branches. By mid morning, the north country was reliant on generators, kerosene heaters, and wood stoves, and would remain so for at least a week.

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The storm began much as the Ice Storm of '91 had, with calls for lines and branches down. It soon became obvious that we would be in for a long operation. In Depauville, we established a shelter in the Firemen's Hall, and began what would seem endless rounds of pumping cellars and otherwise assisting the residents of the area. Roads had to be made passable for emergency equipment, a task that would go on for days. Fire department operations were pretty much continuous for the first couple days.

The shelter at the Firemen's Hall served as a home for a few folks over the course of the event, however its bigger role was as a gathering place and a place to eat. While many area residents had wood stoves or other alternative heat sources, they were still unable to cook. Well over 3000 meals were served over the course of the ten days before power was restored to the majority of area residents (some waited two to three weeks!). The food came from donations from local residents (many of whom faced spoilage problems due to the lack of power), local retailers (who faced a similar problem), and from the Red Cross.

Travel was restricted due to the trees and wires in the roads, so area residents were unable to routinely travel outside the impacted area to get supplies. Generators were in short supply, and when a shipment did arrive, there were long lines of anxious folks hoping to acquire one for themselves or a loved one.

Due to the magnitude of the devastation, County officials requested assistance from the State of New York. The statewide mutual aid plan was placed in effect, and soon fire department "strike teams" of 3 to 5 members began to stream into the area from all over the state.

Some 13 teams assisted in Depauville, several for just a day, others for the requisite 3-4 days. One department in particular stands out among those who helped us. The
Hancock Fire Department, Delaware County, so liked our hospitality that they returned twice more, bringing a total of eleven firefighters in the process. We've now adopted each other and frequently visit each other for special events.

The departments assisting Depauville were:
Branchport (Yates County), 4 members,
North Hornell (Steuben County), 4 members,
Collins (Erie County), 4 members,
Lawtons (Erie County), 4 members,
Hancock (Delaware County), 11 members, (three trips),
Springwater (Livingston County), 4 members,
Big Tree (Erie County), 4 members,
Canisteo (Steuben County), 4 members,
West Monroe (Oswego County), 4 members,
Locust Valley (Nassau County), 4 members,
Elmont (Nassau County), 6 members,
Hastings (Oswego County), 4 members,
Union Springs (Cayuga County), 3 members. Union Springs provided a 30KW generator that powered our Firemen's Hall throughout the emergency.

The strike teams served in a variety of ways. Early strike teams concentrated on clearing roads and providing much needed rest for our members. Later strike teams concentrated more on the welfare of area residents. Carbon monoxide was a significant problem as many citizens who had never used generators neglected to ensure adequate ventilation. Several were hospitalized. We were fortunate that we never had to use strike teams for firefighting in our district, although all were prepared for that eventuality. We did respond to one fire during the emergency, in a neighboring district (LaFargeville). Unfortunately it involved a fatality, and occured during a blinding snowstorm.

Many others assisted. Local National Guard troops provided vehicles to move generators to area farms. The wife of one member, an Army National Guard major, spent many hours coordinating such actions. Area residents helped fire department personnel prepare meals at the shelter, and provided housing for some of the strike teams. The American Red Cross and other agencies began to oversee the supplying of food and other materiel to the shelters.

Members of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) assisted throughout the north country. Communications gear helped restore some phone service, and dozens of 600 gallon "water buffaloes" provided drinking water for many whose water comes from wells, which, of course, require electricity to run the pumps. Of particular note for those of us in Depauville were two members of the 110th Military Intelligence Battalion, whose generator powered the fire station for a significant portion of the emergency. They had to endure a week with us, but we fed them well and made them as comfortable as possible.

The fire department maintained a presence in station, and operated the shelter, for ten days. By that time power was on for a majority of the area (some homes didn't get power back for until two weeks after the storm hit) and the need for such manning had ended.

Ice Storm '98 Album

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This is the view that greeted us as we looked out of the fire station on the first day of the storm. Trees almost universally suffered this type of damage. The view down School Street past our station. The green building was our Firemen's Hall, which housed some who were without other shelter, but which chiefly served a lot of meals, to residents and utility crews alike. Over 3000 meals were served over the course of the disaster. Looking south on NYS Route 12 a mile north of Depauville. Note the ice on the sign, and the deep sag of the power lines. These poles were eventually pulled down by the load of the ice.
Chain link fence became glass block walls as the ice accumulated. This was the scene at Guardino Elementary School in the village of Clayton. This chunk of ice was hanging UNDER a power line. The ruler shows it to be 2" in diameter. That works out to about a pound per linear foot, and that weight doesn't include the ice that was actually around the wire. You do the math... The massing of the utility company vehicles at lunch time. The crews enjoyed our hot meals much more than the box lunches they were provided. The Army's 10th Mountain Division supplied two "water buffalos" for drinking water along with a generator and two operators for our station.
Official Patch of Hancock VFD
This pole provided part of the inspiration for our Ice Storm '98 patch. It was very typical. Over 8000 poles were lost during the storm. Hancock's Patch.
Last update December 28, 1999