After Long Island winter storm comes bitter cold

The powerful winter storm that paralyzed the region on Tuesday had lost considerable steam by Wednesday morning, but strong wind gusts, freezing temperatures and blowing snow will make the morning commute "treacherous" for drivers on Long Island. Videojournalist: Newsday Staff (Jan. 22, 2014)

First, the snow. Now, the bitter cold.

It was 13 degrees -- with a wind chill of -5 -- at MacArthur Airport shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday, after a winter storm socked Long Island with more than a foot of snow in some places.

The storm paralyzed Suffolk and Nassau counties from about noon Tuesday into Wednesday morning, with total snowfall amounting to 11.2 inches at the airport, which saw that same amount in the first storm of the year, Jan. 2 to 3.


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On Tuesday, MacArthur had notched a daily snowfall record with 9.2 inches, surpassing the previous mark of 5 inches in 2000, the service said.

Other snowfall totaled 14.5 inches in North Babylon and Selden, and 12.1 inches in Massapequa, as reported by the public, according to the Upton-based National Weather Service.

State work crews had plowed all roads under their jurisdiction and were working Wednesday to clear "push-outs" - mounds of snow pushed back onto roadways when people clear sidewalks and driveways, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation said.

De-icing work would continue as needed overnight and the snow crews become pothole crews Thursday, spokeswoman Eileen Peters said.

By Wednesday morning, all county roads in Suffolk were plowed and passable, according to county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said that all county roads had been plowed several times and county operations were returning to normal.

"All county roads are passable," Mangano said. "But there are still icy conditions and low temperatures." He urged residents to take it slow on the roads. And when shoveling, residents are encouraged to clear the area around fire hydrants, he said.

County parks opened at noon, county courts at 11 a.m. and all county offices opened for regular hours. Visiting hours at the jail in East Meadow, however, were canceled.

With hundreds of flights canceled at three New York area airports Wednesday, air travelers faced another rough day ahead.

At MacArthur in Ronkonkoma, however, operations returned to normal Wednesday with only one canceled flight, a shuttle to Boston, said airport spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia.

The storm shut down the airport's two runways from about 7 p.m. Tuesday to 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. Employees worked overnight to clear the snow off runways, taxiways and ramps.

"There was so much snow on runways, and there was so much accumulation," she said.

The first scheduled flight from MacArthur on Wednesday, an 11:35 a.m. Southwest flight to sunny Orlando, Fla., took off on time, Birbiglia said.

On Wednesday, the Port Authority was reporting 166 flight cancellations at Kennedy Airport and 366 at LaGuardia. Airlines were working to get back to normal for the afternoon. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports had canceled more than 1,700 flights by Tuesday evening, according to a Port Authority spokeswoman.

Snow accumulation at MacArthur for the month reached 22.4 inches early Wednesday, making it the second-snowiest January since the service began keeping records in 1984, falling shy of the 31 inches in January 2011.

Most of the storm's predicted 10 to 14 inches had fallen before 8 a.m., and Tim Morrin, a weather service meteorologist, said what lies ahead is bone-chilling wind and cold.

"We're looking at some temperatures in the lower single digits with windchill factors as low as minus 20," Morrin said of the weekend forecast. "There is no reprieve from the cold."

Gusting winds, freezing temperatures and blowing snow could make driving treacherous most of Wednesday, Morrin said.

Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist at First Coastal Corp. in Westhampton Beach, said that his team visited East End beaches early Wednesday, finding "there was barely any flooding and no beach erosion to speak of."

More snow is not out of the question: There is a 20 percent chance of snow Thursday, a 50 percent chance Saturday night, and a 40 percent chance Sunday night, the service said.

And until early next week, daily highs are likely to be in the teens and low 20s, with nighttime lows in the single digits. Saturday, with a high expected in the mid 30s, could provide one small break in the freezing stretch of temperatures.

The storm toyed with transportation, whether by land, rail or air.

Driving was slow, bumper to bumper at times, on major roadways Tuesday and during the Wednesday morning commute. The Northern and Southern state parkways and the Long Island Expressway were barely passable during the evening rush and beyond.

From midnight Tuesday to 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, Suffolk County police said they logged 380 accidents, none of them major, a spokeswoman said.

State Police said Wednesday they had responded to about 100 accidents during the snowstorm -- at least five times more than a normal day. Two involved injuries, though both were minor. They also responded to 61 calls about disabled vehicles, police said.

Mangano said there were 159 auto accidents in Nassau between noon Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday -- roughly double that of a typical period. Most of the accidents, he said, were minor fender-benders and no fatalities were reported.

Nassau used 8,000 tons of salt and sand during the storm, reducing its 2013 reserves to just 5,000 tons, he said. The county is expecting its first 2014 delivery of sand and salt on Thursday.

In total, 214 county plow operators worked during the storm, along with 60 officials at the Office of Emergency Management in Bethpage and police and fire crews.

Mangano said just two people used the county's warm bed shelter program Tuesday night.

The LIRR began running on a weekend schedule at midnight Tuesday with off-peak fares for all of Wednesday, a spokesman said. The railroad will return to a normal schedule Thursday.

The reduced service is to allow for track clearing, the LIRR said.

The LIRR also waived extra fees to buy tickets on trains Wednesday, partly because blowing snow and freezing temperatures caused the screens on some vending machines to freeze up, "similar to a car windshield," Arena said, rendering them inoperable.

The light, fluffy snow didn't overly burden power lines, said PSEG Long Island, and caused one minor problem for the electric utility. About 1,200 customers in Coram were without power overnight because of a downed utility pole. The outage was restored, and by daybreak PSEG was reporting only 16 customers without power in various parts of Long Island.

Many of Long Island's school districts as well as public and private colleges and universities closed early Tuesday and will be open on a limited basis Wednesday. Many schools were closed.

A list of closings and cancellations can be found at newsday.com/closings

 

With Candice Ruud, Chau Lam, Darran Simon, Denise M. Bonilla, Michael Gormley, David M. Schwartz, Nicole Fuller, Robert Brodsky, Lauren Harrison, Bill Bleyer and Mark Harrington

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