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Slick start to work day after big blizzard

Commuters wait at the Mineola Long Island Rail

Commuters wait at the Mineola Long Island Rail Road station on Monday. Trains were delayed up to one hour from the weekend's blizzard. (Dec. 21, 2009) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

After a weekend blizzard, Mother Nature still had a few cruel tricks up her sleeve on the first official day of winter.

Slick roads and so-called black ice were said to be responsible for a slew of early-morning crashes Monday on Long Island, including three that resulted in overturned vehicles, police said. At least one person was hospitalized following one of the accidents.

>> PHOTOS: Record-breaking snow pounds LI

The frigid post-storm conditions also continued to cause delays and service disruptions during the morning commute on the Long Island Rail Road.

And more than 100 schools across Long Island were closed Monday after the blizzard, which dumped two feet of snow and more on some communities.

Meanwhile, it could get messy again on Christmas Eve: Forecasters at the National Weather Service say there's a chance of rain and snow on Thursday night, followed by a 60-percent chance of rain on Christmas Day.

On Monday, three of the four major metro-area airports - Kennedy, LaGuardia and Long Island-MacArthur - had no reported delays or cancellations, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Still, many passengers who were grounded when weekend flights were canceled due to the blizzard were scrambling to find some way to get on their way.. The FAA reported that arrivals into Newark-Liberty were being delayed approximately 54 minutes due to weather conditions.

After a relatively quiet morning, the Long Island Power Authority was reporting at noon that 366 customers in Levittown and 82 in Merrick were without electricity. However, LIPA officials said the outages were "not weather-related" and emergency crews were on scene attempting to diagnose and repair the problems.

By noon, Southampton was the last East End town to lift its state of emergency, urging drivers to stay off the road so crews could plow.

The LIRR began the Monday-morning rush hour with a "service alert," warning riders to expect storm-related delays that can affect switches and other equipment.

One day after the railroad saw 184 weather-related cancellations and delays, there was still no service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport, where buses have replaced trains, and there were delays of up to one hour on the Montauk and Ronkonkoma branches; and delays of 15 minutes or more and the Babylon and Port Jefferson-Huntington branches.

By late-morning those delays were down to scattered 15-minute delays systemwide - although a railroad spokesman said expected freezing temperatures later in the day still could have an effect on the evening rush hour. Work crews were working hard to remove ice and snow from track beds and the electrified third rail, the spokesman said.

While many major roads appeared to have been cleared of snow, below-freezing temperatures overnight caused dangerous - and hard-to-see - black ice conditions in some areas during the early-morning rush, police said.

Driving on entrance and exit ramps was particularly tricky.

At least three accidents before 7:30 a.m. on the Long Island Expressway, one each in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties, jammed up the morning commute. Police in Nassau and Suffolk said there were dozens of minor fender-bender type accidents over the weekend, including many parking lot accidents.

>> PHOTOS: Latest on LI | East Coast buried | Classic LI snowstorms | Send your photos!
>> LIVE: Latest forecast and radar | Traffic and LIRR snarls
>> ALERTS: School and organization closings | Breaking news
>> DIVERSIONS: Going out? Best sledding spots | Staying in? Top 9 of 2009 lists

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