Storm exits, leaving up to foot of snow, biting cold
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Though the blizzard-like storm that dumped a foot of snow on some parts of Long Island has passed, the frigid temperatures and icy conditions it left behind are expected to stick around until Saturday.
Unseasonably cold air -- with temperatures in the single digits -- settled over the Island after the storm dropped as much as 12.5 inches of snow in Bay Shore, 12.4 inches in Oceanside and 12 inches in North Babylon and forced the closure the Long Island Expressway for eight hours.
The National Weather Service said that late Friday night and early Saturday, temperatures could fall to zero degrees, with some areas possibly dipping into subzero territory.
"Right now temperatures are dropping into the single digits across Long Island," said Peter Wichrowski, a meteorologist with the Upton-based weather service, at about 9 p.m. Friday. "We're expecting low temperature's near 0 degrees -- and there could be even areas that drop below 0 tonight -- under clear skies."
Saturday morning will start another cold, bright day, with highs reaching into the upper 20s in the afternoon. But, Wichrowski said, "It's still about 10 degrees below our normal highs, which would be, at Islip, around 39 for this time of year."
On Sunday, more seasonable air will return -- with highs in the 40s -- but with it, rain showers, Wichrowski said. "It'll be quite a bit warmer than it has been the past couple of days," he said.
But a single-digit cold snap will take hold of Long Island again starting Monday night, with highs predicted to be in the teens on Tuesday.
"It's a return to very cold air," he said.
The blizzard-like conditions created by the winter storm wreaked havoc on the region's roads, and icy conditions were believed to have contributed to one fatal accident: Colette Epple, 25, of Smithtown, was killed on the Southern State Parkway on Thursday night as the storm began intensifying. State police think Epple had been driving too fast for the icy conditions when her Buick crashed into a tree and burst into flames.
Also, a 66-year-old man had a heart attack Friday morning as he was using a snowblower outside his Bethpage home, Nassau police said. Officers and medics used a defibrillator to jump-start his heart and he was taken to a hospital, police said.
But the eight-hour LIE closure early Friday morning and warnings to stay home may have helped avoid a repeat of last February's debacle, when poor preparation and heavy snowfall led to unplowed roads filled with trapped motorists.
From 7 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday. Nassau police said, officers handled 500 calls for service, 45 accidents and 65 cases in which people needed rescue -- a normal activity level.
Suffolk police recorded 2,572 calls for service, 335 crashes and 356 rescues from 12:01 a.m. Thursday to 2 p.m. Friday. A spokeswoman said the department could not immediately determine if those figures were higher than normal.
By noon Friday, the snow stopped as temperatures continued to drop.
The next several hours, according to the National Weather Service, are likely to be a period of transition.
"From storm to cold," said Ashley Sears, a meteorologist with the service in Upton.
The frigid spell threatens record daily lows of 7 degrees Friday, set in 2001, and 10 degrees Saturday, set in 2008, the service said.
Friday's high is projected to be 15 degrees, with a nighttime low of 3 degrees, Sears said. Saturday morning temperatures also could hover near single digits.
But the good news is that by late Saturday morning the winds -- which gusted more than 40 mph Thursday night and into Friday morning -- will subside. From a blustery 16 to 21 mph Friday afternoon and evening to 6 to 11 mph Saturday morning.
"They won't be much of a factor as Friday," Sears said of the southwest winds.
By Sunday, temperatures will reach the high 30s and rain most likely will help melt much of the snow, Sears said.
For most of Friday, however, the wind chill will make the temperature feel between 5 and minus 5, depending on the area, she said.
Saturday's warming trend -- if you want to call high 20s warm -- follows a period of blizzard-like conditions.
The winter storm nearly doubled January's monthly average snowfall of 7.1 inches, the service said.
But the storm failed to reach blizzard status, which requires a period of three or more hours with both wind gusts of at least 35 mph and falling or blowing snow that reduces visibility to less than a quarter-mile.
Nevertheless, both elements were in play for long periods.
After wind-swept snow painted roadways and the landscape white overnight Thursday, another band of snow hit Long Island early Friday, lingering until about noon.
The storm's final roar dumped another 1 to 3 inches early Friday and, coupled with driving wind, limited visibility to zero in some spots, the weather service said.
The blizzard-like conditions forced state officials to push back the opening of the LIE after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered it closed Thursday. Transportation officials had expected to reopen the expressway at 5 a.m.
The Northern and Southern State parkways remained open throughout the storm.
In a telephone conference call with reporters, Cuomo said early Friday that the storm stranded far fewer motorists than in past years and added that the worst of the storm has moved on.
"The snow part is over for the most part over the state," he said.
The expressway reopened just as Long Islanders began digging out of the largest -- and by far coldest -- snowstorm of the winter so far.
Because of the storm, the Long Island Rail Road on Friday operated on a weekend schedule, with off-peak fares and no penalty for tickets purchased on trains.
Suffolk County Transit began operating buses at 9 a.m. Friday morning -- more than two hours late on some routes.
The Nassau Inter-County Express is running a full schedule, said spokesman Andrew Kraus. There were delays, including some caused by road closures and detours, including on the N27 and N21 lines.
Throughout Thursday night and well into Friday morning, the storm caused near white-out conditions in some areas. Temperatures had dropped to a bone-chilling 13 degrees that felt below zero when factoring in the high winds. At Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, the wind chill reached minus 10, the service said.
Nassau County opened three emergency shelters -- in Port Washington, Glen Cove and Massapequa -- but not one person appeared, according to Brian Nevin, a county spokesman. Nevin said it is not clear whether the shelters will be remain open.
Cuomo declared a statewide emergency, which allows the state to devote more resources to local governments and allows the governor to suspend laws and regulations that might slow response to the storm. He said the state was sending additional snowplows to Long Island, and had private contractors on standby if more equipment and workers were needed.
At Long Island MacArthur in Ronkonkoma, commercial flights were canceled Thursday evening and did not resume until after noon on Friday.
Kennedy Airport suspended flight operations from about 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. Friday because of the wind-driven snow and weather conditions.
A state Department of Transportation spokesman reported no problems overnight with the closure of the LIE. Crews plowed and salted all night, although strong winds made plowing difficult, spokesman Beau Duffy said.
After plows cleared a path, blowing winds swept snow right back over the cleared area, Duffy said.
While the LIE was closed, Sunrise Highway and all state parkways remained open.
Light traffic, people staying indoors and others choosing mass transit helped road crews keep the parkways clear, Duffy said.
"We are still advising people not to drive if they don't have to," he said. "As I'm sure you know, the roads are still snow-covered and slick in spots."
Several Long Island municipalities, including the towns of Huntington, Hempstead, Southampton and Babylon, and the City of Long Beach, East Hampton Village and Huntington Bay Village, declared some form of snow emergency, meaning that officials had more flexibility in ordering changes in residential parking for street plowing, deploying personnel and closing facilities.
The weather forced massive cancellations, including the Nassau and Suffolk courts.
For information on closings, go to newsday.com/closings.
With Sarah Armaghan, Sarah Crichton, Zachary R. Dowdy, Patricia Kitchen, James T. Madore, Deborah S. Morris, Lauren R. Harrison and Ellen Yan