02/12/14 12:33pm
02/12/2014 12:33 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | County Legislator Kara Hahn introduced a bill aimed at examining the benefits of using beet-based brines, like the one above manufactured by East End Organics.

With snowfall totals soaring this winter season — and another storm on the way — area highway crews have been coating the roads with mixtures of salt and sand, but those mixtures are only so effective once temperatures dip below 20 degrees, according to town highway superintendents.  (more…)

01/03/14 1:00pm
01/03/2014 1:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Town Building and Grounds manager Guy Cawley brings out the heavy equipment in Polish Town.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Town Building and Grounds manager Guy Cawley brings out the heavy equipment in Polish Town.

Update: Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter announced Friday that with the plummeting temperatures, any residents who find themselves without heat can call the town at (631) 727-3200, ext. 312, and accommodations will be made for them in Riverhead Town Hall.

With snow tapering off late this morning, the numbers are in: according to the National Weather Service, Riverhead got pretty much exactly what forecasters had predicted, as the station reports 9.8 inches of snow fell in the hamlet.

The blizzard warning which is now expired had predicted anywhere from 8 to 10 inches falling across Suffolk County Thursday night into Friday, and an NWS meteorologist had said that the twin forks would be on the higher end of the scale, with western Suffolk on the lighter side.

In Baiting Hollow, the NWS reported that 8.5 inches fell in the area, while Orient reported the same total. Bay Shore got the most snow on Long Island with 12.5 inches.

Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson said around noon that about three-quarters of the plowing around town was done; he’s hoping to have all the streets done by 3 p.m., he said.

“We’re hoping the wind dies down so we can send everyone home,” he said.

Riverhead Town Hall opened up late today, and Supervisor Sean Walter at one point called a state of emergency last night in order to keep cars off the roads. Governor Andrew Cuomo even ordered the Long Island Expressway closed in light of the snowfall.

But with the snowfall now over, the next challenge Mr. Woodson faces is putting salt down before the roads turn to ice tonight. He urged driving slow; because temperatures are so low, he said it’s too cold for salt to melt any snow on the roads.

“Drive slow. Don’t rush. That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “And if you don’t have to be out there, don’t go.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone expressed concern for a “false sense of security” drivers may have now that the snowfall is over with and roads begin to clear up.

“My big concern is moving forward throughout the day, as people think it’s OK to drive, ice will be on the roads because of the extremely cold conditions,” he said. “People don’t realize, salt doesn’t work at a certain temperature. It’s going to stay there until it warms up.”

Joey Picca, meteorologist with the NWS, said that while a typical low temperature on Long Island would be in the mid-20s this time of year, overnight lows expected tonight could drop to the zero to 5-degree range. In order for salt to do its job on the roads, said Mr. Woodson, temperatures around 30 degrees would be ideal — though with the sun out, and more cars on the road, conditions are becoming more favorable.

11/02/13 11:59am
11/02/2013 11:59 AM
Highway superintendent George 'Gio' Woodson

Highway superintendent George ‘Gio’ Woodson

While residents in parts of neighboring Brookhaven Town remained buried in snow for days after February’s monster blizzard, most all of Riverhead was navigable very soon after the storm (save for some stretches of state roads in Wading River not within the town’s jurisdiction). And this came just a few short months after the highway department and its crews worked to remove fallen trees and pump flooded roadways during and after Hurricane Sandy.

George (Gio) Woodson’s six years in office have seen several extreme weather events and he and his department have performed admirably during and after each one — with Mr. Woodson often rolling up his sleeves and helping out by hopping aboard a plow or other department vehicle when needed.

Profiles: Meet the candidates for highway superintendent

What more can one ask from a highway department head? Well, there are matters of budgeting, equipment maintenance and keeping workers happy and safe. Mr. Woodson has excelled in these areas, too, planning well for salt, sand and overtime and doing more with fewer workers than in years past — and with little employee turnover.

Riverhead Town residents are lucky to have Mr. Woodson in office. But in this race, there’s an embarrassment of riches.

Some less fortunate western Suffolk towns have political hacks in office who are more interested in patronage jobs that road maintenance. But Riverhead residents have two top-notch candidates to choose from. Unfortunately, the Riverhead Republican Committee let candidate Michael Panchak down by not filing the proper paperwork in time to get him on the Republican line. A qualified candidate with years of experience running his own asphalt company and dealing with town and county governments as a private contractor, Mr. Panchak would bring knowledge and experience from the private side of road work to the department. Yet he’ll appear only on the Conservative line — and it’s highly doubtful he’ll upset Mr. Woodson, who’s not only popular, but has Democratic, Independence and Working Families support. While Mr. Woodson has earned another four years in office, it’s good that there are qualified people out there eyeing his job. That will keep Mr. Woodson from ever feeling entitled or getting complacent.