LIE westbound reopens, eastbound still closed between exits 57 and 73 after Long Island snowstorm

New York State Department of Transportation trucks clear New York State Department of Transportation trucks clear the Long Island Expressway west of the Rte. 25 overpass. (Feb. 10, 2013) Photo Credit: John Roca

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The westbound side of the Long Island Expressway is now open, while the eastbound side remains closed for snow removal between exits 57 and 73, police said in statement Monday morning.

The clean-up was slow due to the sheer volume of snow dumped on Suffolk by the blizzard some unofficially dubbed Nemo. Sunday afternoon, the Suffolk County Police Department had advised motorists that the Long Island Expressway -- initially shut down for snow removal until 5 p.m. -- would remain closed in both directions between exits 57 and 73. 

Many residents remained frustrated Sunday while waiting for plows to clear their roads of the 2 to 3 feet of snow left by the historic storm that concentrated its wrath on Suffolk County.

Authorities -- especially on the East End -- asked motorists to stay home Sunday and complained that their equipment was breaking down as it confronted the massive snowfall.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo put out a statement earlier in the day, saying the state was sending more than a third of the New York's "snow removal assets" to Suffolk.

"From the moment that it became clear that Suffolk County would bear the worst of the storm's impact on New York, the state dispensed an unprecedented level of resources, equipment, and manpower to support local relief efforts, Cuomo said in the news release.

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Still, residents in some areas complained that snowplows had not arrived in their neighborhoods.

On an unplowed block in Bohemia, residents who were fed up with what they said was the Town of Islip's slow response, resolved Sunday to use their own snowblowers to collectively clear their street.

The six residents set upon doing the street with their snowblowers and got about three-quarters of the way done before an Islip Town payloader arrived at about 2 p.m. to plow, said Steve Sisti, 54.

Sisti said he had called Islip at least 12 times to ask when their street was going to get plowed.

"They say, 'We'll do the best we can,' but they won't give you any info at all," he said, "and I feel as a taxpayer that I deserve answers."

Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci said Sunday afternoon that the town had cleared a vast majority of its, streets but was hampered by the volume of snow and equipment failures.

State officials on Sunday loaned the town 10 plows toward its blizzard cleanup efforts, which included a fleet in excess of 300 plows, sanders and payloaders, town officials said.

"As soon as the storm started, we immediately went into action, both with our own town crews and private contractors. We never left the scene, we never stopped plowing. It was a constant stream of action to keep up with it," Croci said.

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Some of the 200 or so privately owned plow trucks contracted by the town broke down amid the more than 2 feet of snow that hit some communities in the town, Croci said.

"During the storm, a lot of the private hires, their equipment was not able to handle it," said Croci. "It impeded our ability to have that unit on the ground until we could replace it.

"With the amount of snow that has fallen -- this isn't a four-inch snowstorm, this was a blizzard -- we're really 48 hours in, almost 99 percent done with the roads in our township," said Croci. "We're doing our level best to stay ahead of it and we're not going to stop until all our roads are clear."

In Smithtown, where many residents were also frustrated by the clogged roads, Supervisor Patrick Vecchio pledged all roads in the town would be clear by 5 p.m. Sunday.

Stretches of Main Street in Smithtown were only passable in one lane and most Smithtown business walkways were covered with knee-high snow.

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Vecchio said: "As of today, some have not been passed through . . . but by 5 p.m., they will be." He said employees have worked 14-hour shifts to address the blizzard.

"It's 30 inches of snow, which we haven't seen in Smithtown since 1978, and that . . . [blizzard] was 8 or 10 inches below it," he said.

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen said at least a handful of trucks have had "some breakdowns."

"Some trucks had transmission problems," Jorgensen said, adding that some repairs could not be made overnight. The department experienced "a lot of lost time plowing roads," said Jorgensen, because "my trucks are in the shop getting fixed.

Jorgensen said he that he hopes to mitigate the situation by leasing 12 trucks -- 10 six-wheelers and 2 10-wheelers. "I have trucks that are over 20 years old. The life span of a truck is 10 or 15 years old," said Jorgensen. "Breakdowns are a problem."

Larry Holzberg, 48, of Commack, said he was frustrated by the lack of information about plowing and road conditions.

"There's a way to communicate in this day and age," he said. "The big problem about Sandy was the lack of communication. . . . You would have thought they would have learned something."

Holzberg said that he didn't see a plow on his street from 6 p.m. Friday through noon Sunday.

"We've been snowed in the whole time," he said. "We couldn't get out if we wanted to."

In Centereach, Roger Shannon, 71, said he was desperate to get his wife, Margaret, 71, to her regular dialysis treatment, but their street still wasn't plowed by Sunday afternoon.

The couple had watched and waited as streets around them were cleared several times over, while their own block, Starfire Drive, remained buried under "25 inches of loose powder," Roger Shannon said.

Neighbors stepped up Sunday to help. One used his snowblower, working for an hour to clear a path down the middle of the street. Then, Shannon, with help from other neighbors, walked his wife to a plowed street where their son-in-law was waiting in a car to take her to be treated in Port Jefferson Station.

"It was certainly terrible," Roger Shannon said, "but we got her there."

Shannon said his wife suffers from kidney failure, and although her situation this weekend wasn't life-threatening, it was still urgent.

"I would understand if nothing in the neighborhood was done, but what I don't understand is why one block, two blocks, three blocks get multiple passes with a snowplow, and others aren't getting a visit at all," he said. "It's frustrating."

A truck eventually came by at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday to plow the Shannons' street as they returned from the dialysis appointment, but it cleared only a portion of the block, Shannon said.

"It went one house past mine and then took off," he said. "I can get my car out, but four-fifths of the houses are still stuck."

Janet Mager, 70, spent two days trying to dig out her Selden driveway, and only got about halfway to the street.

"Fifty years in this house and I've never seen anything like this," Mager said. She had enlisted the help of two 13-year-old boys Sunday afternoon, who were starting from Hawkins Road and shoveling into her driveway, but progress in the several feet of powder was slow.

Mager said her problem is that the plows push more snow up onto her lawn, making it harder for her to dig out. "They plow me in every year and it's just horrible," she said. "I'm hurting today a little." She lives alone, and said her family has been calling to check on her, but no one has been able to get out to see her.

"When you can't get out, you can't get out," she said. "When you get older, you get panicky."

After 50 years in the same house, Mager said she can't deal with New York winters and the fierce nor'easters anymore. So she's planning to move to Florida.

"You can come back in two weeks and see a for sale sign," she said. "I'm outta here."

Brian Myers' East Northport cul-de-sac had not been plowed as of Sunday afternoon, and he said he wouldn't be surprised if Huntington Town never sent trucks to his neighborhood at all after this storm. It wouldn't be the first time, he said.

"Winter storms have come and gone, and they haven't plowed," Myers, 44, said. "It's one thing to be at the bottom of the list; it's another not to be on the list."

Myers said the town's Highways Hotline had been busy for two days, and he finally got someone on the phone Sunday afternoon. "I'll let them know," the woman had replied of Myers' complaint, he said.

Myers said his frustrated neighbors on Scholar Court have taken matters into their own hands. "There are literally people with their private snowblowers clearing the town road," he said.

As of 5:45 p.m., the cul-de-sac had not been plowed.

Max Piep, 58, has been making calls all weekend in efforts to get his Dix Hills street plowed.

He said he encountered a busy signal for two days when calling Huntington's Highways Hotline. He called neighbors on nearby streets and learned all courts but his been cleared of snow.

He dialed the town's security number and was passed from one department to another, until finally someone told him that his street, Haig Drive, and the adjoining Haig Court, had been marked off as plowed.

"They had it in their record that I was done," he said. He informed them of the error and followed up, finally getting results at about 2 p.m. Sunday, when a truck showed up on his block.

Whether it's the town or a company they contract, "someone's at fault, someone's asleep," he said.

Louise Suarino, 83, lives in a 55-and-over private community called Greenwood Village in Manorville, where driveways and roadways are typically cleared by the company that owns the complex of one-family homes.

"It looks beautiful, but it's getting dangerous," said Suarino, who is diabetic and has a heart condition. "If you need an ambulance, you can't even get through to your house."

In past storms, roads and driveways were clear by now, said Suarino, who said she has called a management office but no one is on-site. "In my living room, I can't see my houses across the street" because of the snow.

A message left on the phone line of Equity Lifestyle Properties, which owns Greenwood Village, said crews were out working and that on average it takes 10 to 12 hours to remove 2 inches of snow. Greenwood Village got about 2 feet.

In Suffolk, the Long Island Expressway was closed for snow removal from Exit 57, Veterans Memorial Highway, to Exit 73, Old Country Road, at the end of the expressway in Riverhead. The expressway was expected to be reopened at 9 p.m. Sunday.

At exits 72 and 73, Suffolk County police squad cars, orange cones and huge yellow trucks block any hope of entering the LIE, although from above on the overpass, the exit ramps and highway below looked mostly plowed, and asphalt is now finally visible for the first time since Friday night.

Still, while the highway below looked clear, the entrance ramps were being carefully guarded. A worker who didn't want to give his name was guarding the entrance ramp to westbound exit 72 in his truck, and said it would still take several hours for the plowing to be done.

Motorists who had to abandon their vehicles on local roads due to the snowstorm should call the precinct where the vehicle was left for information on recovering it.

However, this does not pertain to vehicles abandoned on the Long Island Expressway, Sunrise Highway or any state parkways.

Southampton Town Police reported treacherous road conditions, with wires down. Sunrise Highway had been icy earlier, but Suffolk police said it is open and passable.

In Southold Town, an emergency declaration was lifted at 8 a.m. Sunday, according to town police, and roads were passable and open there.

East Hampton town and village police reported icy conditions on roads, with some power outages and downed trees.

New York State Police said the Northern State and Southern State parkways were "passable," but some of the ramps weren't clear.

In Nassau County, Merrick Road in Seaford was closed in both directions on Sunday morning due to a water main break, Nassau police said.

The closure affects Merrick Road at Kenora Place, and was first reported at 1:22 a.m. Sunday. Hours later, the road remained closed as crews assessed road conditions, Nassau police said.

In Nassau County, which was spared the brunt of the blizzard, roads have been cleared since Saturday morning and conditions remained "very good," said County Executive Edward Mangano.

Mangano said the county was now focusing its efforts on cleaning up county parks and government facilities. Nassau has also deployed some of its Public Works crews to aid Suffolk and Brookhaven with their clean-up efforts.

"The roadways should be clear to get to work without a real issue," Mangano said of the Monday morning commute. "We just advise motorists to use caution, because there still may be spotty patches of ice."

The Long Island Power Authority reported 95 active outages affecting 514 customers just before 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

About 50,000 customers have experienced outages over the course of the storm, but Ladd said 98 percent of those were fixed within 24 hours. Fallen tree limbs and wind had caused wires to come down in most of the instances of power failure, she said.

National Grid was keeping out-of-state crews in the area in preparation for winds it expected could cause more power outages, spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said Sunday.

"We are expecting some high winds overnight and tomorrow morning, up to 40 miles per hour," she said. "That might cause a couple thousand outages, so we are bedding our crews down tonight and we are prepared to work on restoration tomorrow if it's needed."

The utility company had 1,000 workers, including linemen and tree trimmers, in the area from as far away a Michigan and Ohio, Ladd said.

Suffolk County has suspended county bus service for Monday said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone.

Suffolk will continue to operate its Paratransit bus system for special needs residents, but only for those riders who made previous reservations for medical appointments, Baird-Streeter said.

The Long Island Rail Road said it will resume near-normal weekday service on all its branches Monday morning, although it expected some suspensions in Eastern Suffolk and a few cancellations. The LIRR will cancel 10 of its usual 143 morning rush trains, said customer service Vice President Joseph Calderone. Buses will replace trains between Ronkonkoma and Greenport. And there will be no service between Speonk and Montauk.

"It provides a little but of flexibility in terms of the operation," Calderone said of the ten cancellations.

Service to Port Jefferson, which remained suspended throughout most of the weekend, will resume Monday morning.

The LIRR is not planning any cancellations for the Monday evening commute. Still, Calderone said customers should expect delays and unanticipated cancellations, and build in extra time for their commute.

Calderone added that customers may have difficulty finding parking at some station lots in Suffolk that have not been thoroughly plowed. LIRR crews and private contractors were to work Sunday night into Monday to help clear the Ronkonkoma station lot, which is maintained by the Town of Brookhaven.

"It's a really good day to consider getting somebody to take you to your station, if your roads are clear," Calderone said.

As an alternative, Calderone said some Suffolk customers may want to consider driving west to a Nassau station, where parking may be more readily available.

The blizzard hit the LIRR system particularly hard in Suffolk. Its critical Ronkonkoma rail yard, where many trains are stored before weekday morning commutes, was buried under more than 2 feet of snow.

For details on the LIRR's morning schedule, customers are advised to visit mta.info/lirr and refer to "Modified Schedule 1."

Air travel crept to back to life Sunday at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, where US Airways was scheduled to resume service at noon, and Southwest Airlines, the airport's busiest carrier, was supposed to begin flying at 4:50 p.m.

A total of 14 flights were canceled Sunday at LIMA, according to FlightAware.com, an online flight tracker.

Airline travel at New York City's regional airports was much improved Sunday.

Flights at Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark Liberty in New Jersey and Stewart International in Westchester resumed Saturday, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Sunday, there were no delays at Kennedy Airport or at LaGuardia, and only 15-minute departure delays at Newark, according to the FAA.

In all, there were 18 canceled flights at Kennedy; seven at LaGuardia; 13 at Newark and 14 at Long Island MacArthur Sunday.

The numbers are much smaller than on Friday, when airlines canceled thousands of flights into the New York region before the storm. More than 2,000 flights -- about 50 percent of the daily flight schedule -- were canceled at New York City's major airports on Friday.

Passengers flying Monday are urged to contact their airlines before leaving for the airport. Flight delays can be tracked at www.fly.faa.gov.

With Jennifer Barrios, Candice Ferrette, Nicole Fuller, Candice Ruud, Keith Herbert, Laura Figueroa and Emily Dooley

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