Record-breaking snow hits LI, leaving injuries and destruction
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Suffolk police reported one storm-related fatality late Saturday -- a 58-year-old man who suffered a heart attack while clearing snow in Selden. In Smithtown, the snow's weight may have caused a partial roof collapse at the Smithtown Lanes bowling alley, police said.
Long Island was spared massive power outages, however, because the winds were not as powerful as the most dire forecasts. By 9:30 last night, 5,456 customers were in the dark, down from a peak of 43,000. The Long Island Rail Road ran limited service Saturday while working toward a full restoration in time for Monday's morning rush hour.
The blizzard unleashed up to 33 inches of snow, as recorded in Medford, and wind gusts to 75 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Upton. The storm total of 30.9 was the highest in Upton since records have been kept beginning in 1949, breaking the December 2009 record of 26.3 inches, officials said.
From 4 p.m. Friday to 2 p.m. Saturday, Suffolk's 911 call center was flooded with 8,046 calls -- more than four times the usual volume.
Area hospitals reported several cases of blizzard related injuries -- slips and falls, sledding accidents and injuries sustained from car collisions.
An amputated finger and a wounded hand were among the snowblower injuries treated at six Catholic Health Services hospitals across Long Island Saturday, said Chris Hendriks, a spokeswoman for the network.
Across the East End, high winds hampered town and state attempts to clear roads of blowing snow. Roads plowed and left free of drifts were buried under snow within the hour, police dispatchers said at several East End towns and villages.
Wind-driven drifting snow caused severely decreased visibility and at least a few near-accidents on Sound Avenue on the North Fork.
"A plow comes and it's good for three minutes, and then the wind comes again and covers up the road," said MaryAngela Benthal, 19, of Jamesport.
All 32 state parks on Long Island remain closed as staff conducts a damage assessment and handles snow removal, George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director for state parks, said. There are no plans yet to open any of the parks for winter activities.
With Candice Ruud, Scott Eidler, Bill Bleyer, Nicholas Spangler, Matthew Chayes, Steve Wick and John Paraskevas