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."