DOT's message to LIers: Stay off the roads

A blizzard warning is officially in effect, as Long Islanders braced for a winter storm that could dump more than a foot of snow and winds strong enough to blow down trees and knock out power to thousands of homes. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Feb. 8)

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Stay home. That was the message during the day from road crews tasked with battling the blizzard conditions later Friday.

But by 6 p.m., the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway (Route 135) became an early casualty, and that major roadway was ordered closed due to severity of the snowstorm conditions, Nassau police said.

The state Department of Transportation began staffing at 4 a.m. with skeleton crews assigned to the Island's parkways and the Long Island Expressway. Daytime crews will then be kept on duty Friday evening and throughout the storm until roads are cleared Saturday, spokeswoman Eileen Peters said.

In total, 400 state road crews and administrative staff are expected to be on deck later in the day Friday, with additional plows and crews brought in from upstate as the storm intensifies and still more lined up if necessary.

"Drivers can expect plowing throughout the storm, including a single pass on exit and on-ramps, but high winds can mean snow blowing back over roads and difficult driving especially if predicted blizzard conditions eventuate.

"We are strongly encouraging people to stay off the roads where possible," Peters said.

On Thursday, 198 large dump plows were readied and spreaders filled with the calcium chloride brine mix used to salt roads. Statewide, 366,500 tons of road salt is on hand to treat the roads, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office.

A New York State transportation representative will be on hand at both Nassau and Suffolk Emergency Operations Centers from 5 p.m. to coordinate efforts with other agencies.

In Suffolk, where between a foot to 20 inches of snow is forecast, country spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said 19,300 tons of salt was available, with around 125 pieces of snow removal equipment ready to tackle the county's 412 miles of roads. Among the equipment are 10- and 6-wheelers, small dump-body skidsters, and pickup trucks. The county has additional emergency contractors it can activate if necessary.

Personnel from the Department of Public Works, highway department, fleet maintenance, vector control and parks department will be working to help keep the roads clear, Baird-Streeter said.

In Nassau, DPW spokesman Mike Martino said 175 DPW personnel, 85 salter/plows, 16 payloaders for snow clearing, 18,000 tons of salt and 5,000 cubic yards of sand were at the ready.

With Bill Mason

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