Nor'easter leaves dangerous roads, more power outages

A nor'easter arrived on Long Island Wednesday night, knocking down trees and power lines, closing roads, leaving behind 8 inches of snow in areas. The weather service issued a warning to drivers, advising of treacherous road conditions on Thursday morning. Videojournalist: Arnold Miller

A nor'easter arrived on Long Island Wednesday night, knocking down trees and power lines, closing roads, leaving behind 8 inches of snow in areas. The weather service issued a warning to drivers, advising of treacherous road conditions on Thursday morning. Videojournalist: Arnold Miller

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As if superstorm Sandy weren't bad enough, a nor'easter that arrived Wednesday night knocked down trees and power lines, closed roads, temporarily suspended railroad service and left behind 8 inches of snow in areas, officials said.

The good news was, coastal flooding wasn't as bad as predicted, National Weather Service meteorologist Lauren Nash said Thursday morning.

The bad news is that LIPA, which had promised in the aftermath of Sandy to restore service within seven to 10 days to 90 percent of its powerless customers, said almost 60,000 customers lost electricity overnight -- the outages topping 203,570 by just before 10 a.m.

The weather service issued a warning to drivers, advising of treacherous road conditions on Thursday morning.

The Long Island Expressway in Nassau and western Suffolk was covered in snow and ice early Thursday, with entire lanes looking as if they had not been plowed overnight; road conditions were better into Queens.

Nassau County police said just after 9 a.m. Thursday that the LIE's eastbound lanes at Exit 40 were closed because of an auto accident. Cameras showed that traffic was restored to all but the right lane by early afternoon.

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There have been intermittent closures on all parkways because of downed trees, flooding and storm-related accidents. Buildups of an icy mix of snow and slush caused early morning delays.

Nassau County police said that conditions were difficult on the roads Thursday morning. "Overnight, a bunch of roads were out. But this morning most of the major roads are clear. It's those secondary and tertiary roads that are still a problem -- and they've begun to get to them," police said.

As far as damage: "We've got trees down, lines down." He said there is some road flooding and "multiple reports of fender-benders."

Suffolk County police said there had been numerous reports of downed trees and live wires, nor'easter-related fender-benders and even two road closures in the Huntington area -- on Jericho Turnpike and on Park Avenue.

"We got some pretty good wind gusts," Nash, the meteorologist said, noting that gusts in the 55- to 60-mph range were recorded. And, she said, Long Island and the metropolitan area got even more snow than predicted because of how this most-recent storm tracked. High pressure to the north of the system trapped a cold, low-pressure mass here -- over us -- and that led to significant snow.

In North Valley Stream and Albertson, 8 inches of snow was recorded, while Suffolk's snow total topped out at 4.4 inches in Stony Brook.

In Queens, 7 inches of snow was recorded in Flushing.

This latest storm led to a host of new problems for the Long Island Rail Road, most resolved to pre-nor'easter levels by Thursday morning's commute.

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The LIRR said early Thursday that it had resumed its modified schedule on all branches except the Long Beach Branch after Wednesday night's delays and weather suspensions. Customers should expect weather-related delays, longer waits and crowded cars, the railroad advised.

No doubt, the nor'easter would only worsen LIPA customers' frustration.

LIPA outages crept back up to more than 200,000 overnight. Some 60,000 lost power Wednesday as a result of the second storm, after superstorm Sandy knocked out power to more than 945,000. But outages that stood at more than 207,000 at 5 a.m. Thursday spiked to 262,384 just before 1:20 p.m.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said the new numbers, in addition to outages from the nor'easter, include those that had previously been removed from the outage figures from the Rockaway Peninsula to Long Beach, where devastation has rendered many homes unable to accept electric service. Some of those homes are being re-energized after LIPA set up temporary substations in the areas.

It was not clear when those customers can expect restored service.

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The utility warned customers that if they see any downed wire, "treat it as if it is a live electric wire," stay away from it and report it to LIPA immediately at 800-490-0075 or 631-755-6900. Keep in mind that wires can become entangled in and hidden from view by storm debris, the utility advised.

In the wake of the nor'easter, towns found themselves switching from Sandy cleanup to nor'easter cleanup.

In Glen Cove, city crews performed "aggressive debris cleanup" in anticipation of the nor'easter -- in part to prevent unsecured objects from being tossed around in the high winds -- and then worked from Wednesday evening until 5:30 a.m. Thursday, salting, sanding and plowing roads, Mayor Ralph Suozzi said Thursday.

The city's major roads appeared clear Thursday morning and the parking lots of Glen Cove High School, which has served as a shelter since superstorm Sandy struck, had also been neatly plowed. City trucks and workers in neon jackets were a common sight around Glen Cove.

Suozzi said efforts to place sand or salt on the roads and then plow them were no different from that of a typical storm, but added that city public works employees had been working overtime to collect debris and felled trees from roads and curbs.

In North Hempstead, crews that had been working to clear trees downed by Sandy had to be redirected to clear roads on Wednesday night. Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said more than 150 workers were sent out Wednesday night to clear the roads.

"The roads were horrific," Kaiman said. "As we saw the nature of the snow coming down, we shifted a lot quicker to the highway folks' clearing the roads."

The greatest damage in the town came to areas already hardest hit by Sandy: Great Neck, Port Washington, and significant areas of Roslyn and the Willistons, Kaiman said. Kaiman said several hundred utility crews were back in North Hempstead on Thursday, and that town crews would have all the town's roads clear by early afternoon.

Areas in the Town of Smithtown were covered with about 4 inches of heavy, wet snow by the nor'easter, officials said.

"You have snow on top of leaves now . . . so we're seeing spotty flooding all over town," said John Valentine, director of the town's public safety office.

To combat flooding, crews cleared drains of the tree debris, he said. "By day's end they're saying the slush and snow will freeze again, so it's got to get off the roads," he said.

Glenn Jorgensen, the town's superintendent of highways, said at least 80 vehicles were out early Wednesday evening to address the snow.

"Yesterday we went from clearing the debris off the side of the roads, to plowing and sanding the roads at night," he said of shifting gears from post-Sandy efforts to the nor'easter. Plows continued through midnight Wednesday and resumed again at 4 a.m. Thursday, starting with main roads and moving onto more interior roads, Jorgensen said.

As of 11:45 a.m., asphalt could be seen on the roads, said Jorgensen, adding, "Right now we're in good shape."

Reports from the East End indicated a lighter snowfall, with not enough sticking on the ground to require plowing in Riverhead and Southold.

There was one bright side to this most-recent storm, the weather service said. Coastal flooding was supposed to be major in areas, with tidal departures 3 to 5 feet over normal expected at high tide. Those tides were lower than expected, Nash said.

And for those still without power and heat, frigid temperatures will soon be on the outs -- at least temporarily. Temperatures in the 60s are expected Sunday and Monday.

With Emily Ngo, Jennifer Barrios, Lauren R. Harrison, Mark Harrington and Mitchell Freedman

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