Blizzard drops two feet of snow; residents asked to avoid driving

01/27/2015 5:00 PM |
7-11 in Riverhead was open for business as the sun set on a day of snow cleanup across the region Tuesday. (Credit: Melanie Drozd)

7-11 in Riverhead was open for business as the sun set on a day of snow cleanup across the region Tuesday. (Credit: Melanie Drozd)

In New York City they called it a “snor’easter.”

In Nassau County, folks seemed more concerned about whether the Islanders and Rangers would be lacing up the skates at Nassau Coliseum tonight.

But here on the North Fork, we got hit with a blizzard that was pretty much as advertised, even if the aftermath won’t be as challenging as other recent storms.


“All the things we don’t really need happening didn’t happen,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said early Tuesday morning after Mother Nature dropped more than 20 inches on the region.

The highest reported snow total anywhere on Long Island was 28 1/2 inches in Orient, according to the National Weather Service. Mattituck had 24.8 inches and Baiting Hollow had 22 inches, the NWS reported.

Greg Szlejter clearing large drifts in front of a friend's house on Swezey Avenue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Greg Szlejter clearing large drifts in front of a friend’s house on Swezey Avenue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The NWS had issued a Blizzard Warning until 6 p.m. today. Shortly after noon, that was canceled and a Winter Storm Warning was issued in its place until midnight.

“There may be a little light snow left over from the storm,” said meteorologist Jim Connolly shortly before 1 p.m.

Following the storm, he said the North Fork area should be clear until Friday, when there’s a possibility of light snow showers that could turn over to rain.

“There is nothing major that we are seeing right now, however there is a storm toward the beginning of next week that we are also watching, but it is too soon to tell any details,” he said.

Even after Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted a travel ban Tuesday morning, both Mr. Russell and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter kept local bans in place, having already declared their respective towns in a State of Emergency. Riverhead’s State of Emergency was issued until 6 p.m. and Southold’s was lifted at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Residents who had to drive were urged to use extreme caution because of the potential for icy roads.

Both supervisors said throughout the storm that residents were obeying the ban, which went into effect in 13 counties at 11 p.m. Monday.

“Walmart tried to stay open until midnight, but we shut them down,” Mr. Walter said of the Route 58 store.

At a press conference in Lindenhurst at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo said 100 National Guard members were en route to help with the cleanup efforts. He thanked residents for obeying the orders to stay off the roads and encouraged them to continue to do so through the rest of the day Tuesday.

“Be smart today,” he said. “If you don’t have to be on the road, stay home. … Let emergency workers do their job.”

County Executive Steve Bellone called it an “historic” response to the storm, noting the cooperation between all levels of government.

“We’ve had 40 different agencies coordinating in order to respond to this event,” he said.

Jake Phillips of Scott Phillips construction of Aquebogue shoveling the sidewalk in front of McLaughlin-Heppner Funeral home at 7:30 p.m. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Jake Phillips of Scott Phillips construction of Aquebogue shoveling the sidewalk in front of McLaughlin-Heppner Funeral home at 7:30 a.m. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Resources from upstate New York were deployed to Long Island, Gov. Cuomo said. Riverhead Town was set to receive three plows, while National Guardsmen were delivering 80 tons of salt to Southold Town, Mr. Bellone said.

While Suffolk Transit bus service is expected to be delayed east of Riverhead. Some lines, including the 10C and F92, are still being evaluated. Riders are advised to check the county website for any updates.

Mr. Bellone said he had not yet heard of any major beach erosion issues across the North Fork.

Despite a minimal amount of reported emergencies, no vehicles blocking roadways and few downed tree limbs, local officials stressed the need for people to stay in their homes. That largely has to do with the need for highway crews to keep up with plowing.

Both Riverhead Highway Superintendent George ‘Gio’ Woodson and Southold’s Vincent Orlando said early Tuesday that their teams had to briefly shut down due to poor visibility in the overnight hours.

“I was getting a chain of text messages from the guys saying ‘We can’t see, we can’t see,'” Mr. Orlando said. He pulled his crews at 4:30, while Riverhead drivers continued to work for one more hour. By sunrise they were back out in full force.

Despite the large accumulation they reported a “light snow,” that was easy to clear off the roadways.

“But this is much lighter [than the past],” Mr. Walter said. “We’re not going to need heavy equipment. We’re gonna be in good shape.”

The travel ban in Riverhead was lifted around noon, though residents were encouraged to stay off the roads. The ban in Southold extended further into Tuesday.

Congressman Lee Zeldin said his office has been monitoring roadways and making sure the local municipalities have support. He’s also kept an eye on power outages, which were minimal on the East End, with most of the local outages occurring around midnight in Riverhead.

Mr. Zeldin said federal officials will monitor damage throughout the week and assess the need, if any, for relief.

All local schools are closed Wednesday.


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