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Top Stories 2015: Winter weather freezes Riverhead

12/25/2015 9:00 AM |

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After record-setting snowfall during the 2013-14 winter season, Riverhead was hoping for a reprieve.

Instead, winter got worse.

The North Fork was pounded by snow again with blizzards and winter storms hitting the area nearly every week. According to measurements at the National Weather Service’s station in Islip, which is the closest weather station, Long Island saw 63.7 inches of snow from December through March — a full three feet of snow more than the average.

That snowfall total matched the previous winter’s and posed a dangerous problem for drivers and road crews.

Compounding the issue was a February that easily became the coldest on record with temperatures averaging just 21.6 degrees for the month and a staggering 11.2 degrees below normal, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather was cold enough to freeze large parts of the Long Island Sound. It would be the first time the body of water froze in nearly 40 years. The icy water choked several ports along the Sound and made it impossible for the U.S. Coast Guard to patrol out of its station in Connecticut.

The constant freezing temperatures mixed with steady snowfall tore up local roads — especially Sound Avenue — due to “heaving,” the flexing and breaking of asphalt as temperatures shift. Cracks in the road allowed snowmelt to seep in, which resulted in a string of potholes along nearly every major road in town.

But local road crews got a break over the past few months, as an unusually warm spell allowed highway crews to continue repairing roads. With December temperatures far above normal, some patch work continued up to the week of Christmas.

Photo: The Baiting Hollow shoreline was covered last winter. The icing represents the worst freeze of Long Island Sound in decades, according to experts and historical accounts. (Credit: Jerry McGrath, file)

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