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Update: Strong winds to continue challenging highway crews overnight

Update 7:30 p.m.: Riverhead Highway Superintendent George ‘Gio’ Woodson said his department has plowed most of the roads in town, but the biggest issues remains farm roads like Sound Avenue, Reeves Avenue, Doctors Path and Peconic Bay Boulevard, where the snow blows back into the roads even after its been plowed.

“They blow back faster than you can plow them, so we’ll just have to keep an eye on them for the night,” he said. “Hopefully, the wind will die down tomorrow and we’ll be able to get everything fixed.”

He said tomorrow his department will work on cleanup of those areas.

The other biggest problem, Mr. Woodson said, was people driving around in the snow and getting stuck.

“Of course, they never get stuck on the side of the road,” he said. “They always get stuck right in the middle so we can’t get around them. It’s just aggravating. We probably spend two to three hours per storm pulling people off the road that got stuck.”

As for flooding, Mr. Woodson said that other the downtown riverfront, the area with the biggest problem is Creek Road in Wading River.

“We’re trying to get a grant to raise that road about a foot and a half to two feet. That’s the only way you can solve that flooding.

The highway department started at 3:30 a.m. Thursday and was still going after 7 p.m., he said.

“We’ll do what we can do for the night, and hopefully tomorrow, the winds will die down and we will get a hold on things,” he said.

Update: 5 p.m.: A Wading River resident who lives on Creek Road along Long Island Sound said nearly all the road was underwater Thursday afternoon.

“We’re buried over here,” said Jim Loscalzo, who lives on the western end of the road. “We got water up the driveway from the creek, and the water on the beach side just came up to the middle of the bluff.”

His wife, Peggy, said the heavy winds made it sound like “the roof was coming off the house or something.”

“It’a little bit scary,” she said. “We’re both trying to work and not look outside.”

Mr. Loscalzo said their home is on the low end of the uneven road and they’re in the process of working with New York Rising to elevate the home in March.

“Creek Road is so uneven that where the road dips, it floods the road and some of the houses,” he said.

The Loscalzos said most of the homes on Creek Road are now summer rentals, and they are one of about three families that live there year-round.

Update 4:25 p.m.: Even after the blizzard passes, wicked weather will remain. The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory that begins at 1 a.m. Friday and will be in effect until 10 a.m. Saturday.

“The cold wind chills will cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes to exposed skin,” the report states.

Starting Thursday night, wind chills are expected to range from 0 to -20 degrees, the NWS said. Strong wind gusts up to 55 mph will remain throughout Friday, causing white-out conditions.

As of 1:50 p.m., 11 inches of snow were reported in Calverton, according to a NWS co-op observer.

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Update, 2:40 p.m.:  In keeping with advice from the highway superintendent, Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith is advising people to stay off the roads, especially Sound Avenue.

“Sound Avenue is in pretty bad shape,” she said. “It’s almost impassable at this point. So people should stay off that and the north-south roads because of the snow drifts coming off the fields.”

She added that the town is monitoring the conditions and the state of emergency is still in effect. So far there have been no reports of flooding, but there have been multiple cars that have gotten stuck in the snow.

“The highway department is out there doing the best they can to keep the roads clear,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “It’s very windy — people should stay off the road and let the highway department get in there and do their job.”

Update, 1:45 p.m.: Sound Avenue in Riverhead is impassable. Officials said drivers should avoid the area if they must be on the road.

Update, 12 p.m.: Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith declared a state of emergency, effective 10:30 a.m. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for all of Long Island mid-morning, as well.
Road conditions deteriorated rapidly, according to a press release from the supervisor. “The amount of snow that has fallen in a short period of time has made the roads extremely dangerous and nearly impassable. Driving has become treacherous and is not recommended,” she said. “Allow the highway workers time to do their job.”

Around 11:30 a.m., Riverhead Town police reported there have been 5 to 10 calls this morning for “disabled vehicles” because of the snow. All vehicles must be removed from the road. The town will have those not removed towed at the owner’s expense.

As a reminder, all town facilities and schools are closed today.

RELATED: Important phone numbers to have handy during a storm

Update 11:30 a.m.: An outage in Wading River has left 84 PSEG-Long Island customers without power late Thursday morning.

Crews are en route to assess the problem, but PSEG-Long Island estimated power would be restored at 6:15 p.m. It was not immediately clear what caused the outage.  The outage is one of 45 on Long Island. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph are being reported.

Meanwhile, the snow is falling rapidly. From the National Weather Service office in Upton, meteorologists said they believe the North Fork will get 10 to 15 inches of snow when the blizzard is over.

John Criscantello said that the snow is expected to taper off at the earliest late afternoon, but more likely sometime after sunset. He said the heaviest snow will most likely be done by late afternoon.

While 7.4 inches of snow was the latest snow total available in Riverhead, Mr. Criscantello said around 11 a.m., it “wouldn’t shock me if it now 8-9 inches in and around the area of Riverhead.” 

Snow fell fast by the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead Thursday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Update, 10:45 a.m.: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state emergency for all of Long Island as the powerful coast storm has brought blizzard conditions to the area.  A blizzard warning remains in effect for all of Suffolk County.

According to the latest snow totals from the National Weather Service at 10:10 a.m., 7.4 inches had fallen so far in Riverhead. A total of 14 inches is expected to fall on the North Fork before the storm is over.

Update, 10:05 a.m.: With continuous snowfall overnight, the Riverhead Town Highway Department has been busy plowing the roads since around 8 a.m.

Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson said his crew has been working to plow the main roads. His advice to residents: don’t drive, unless completely necessary; roads are slick. If you must leave your house, Mr. Woodson said speeds shouldn’t exceed 20-25 mph.

“If you don’t have to go out don’t go out,” he stressed. “It’s probably going to be an all day thing. It’ll get worse before it gets better.”

He said the plan is to plow the main roads first. Then once the storm is about 50 to 75 percent done, the crew will start working on secondary roads, developments and smaller roads.

“We don’t want to do the developments first and have someone think the roads are plowed and get stuck on the main road,” he said. “So we’re just doing the main roads now unless there’s an emergency.”

He said the department was proactive in removing any leaning or dead trees along the main roads to eliminate trees falling down and blocking the roadways during the storm.

Plows worked along the Peconic River Thursday morning. Credit: Grant Parpan

Although he said things have been going smoothly this morning, he stressed once again that people should stay home today rather than traveling as conditions are expected to get worse.

It is expected to drop 8 to 14 inches and bring minor coastal flooding to the East End, the National Weather Service said. Winds are supposed to reach over 55 mph.

“Just because you have four-wheel drive doesn’t mean you can go out,” Mr. Woodson said. “Four-wheel drive gets stuck too and it takes longer to have to pull someone out or go around them. If you don’t have to go out, do not go out.”

A Riverhead ambulance and police car were at the ready on West Main Street Thursday morning. Credit: Grant Parpan

Original Story, 7:22 a.m.: Snow fell slowly overnight, but forecasters are still calling for over a foot of snow to fall on the East End with dangerous blizzard conditions Thursday.

All Riverhead Town facilities have been closed and all town meetings scheduled for Thursday have been canceled, according to a press release Thursday morning. Garbage collection was supposed to start one hour earlier today.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith declared a “winter storm event,” which means no parking is permitted on either side of the streets between 6 a.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday.

A strengthening coastal storm will dump 8 to 14 inches and bring minor coastal flooding to the East End, the National Weather Service said. The snow is expected to be heavy at times, starting around 8 a.m., and fall fast with rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour at times throughout the day. A blizzard warning remains in effect in Suffolk County until Friday at 1 a.m.

Meteorologists said conditions will deteriorate rapidly and travel conditions during the morning and evening commutes could be dangerous. Winds are already picking up and gusts are expected to exceed 55 mph, causing “whiteout conditions” and significant drifting. Scattered power outages and downed trees are possible.

Schools on the East End, including Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River, announced classes on Thursday were canceled Wednesday evening.

Suffolk transit buses have been canceled for Thursday and the Hampton Jitney suspended its morning and afternoon trips between the East End and Manhattan. The Long Island Rail Road was expected to run normal service.

A coastal flood advisory is also in effect for southern and eastern bays on Long Island from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday. Tides are 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet above normal. Shallow flooding is possible in vulnerable areas along the shore. Ice covered waters in Peconic and Great South Bays will increase the chance for damage to docks and bulkheads, the NWS said.

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Top photo caption: Snow piled up on Nash Avenue in Flanders at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday. (Credit: Taylor K. Vecsey)