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Storm causes travel delays and unsafe roads

The Sayville train station is covered in snow

The Sayville train station is covered in snow during Long Island's first big snowstorm of the winter. Credit: Newsday/Mahala Gaylord

Yesterday's storm caused travel headaches even before it arrived, with flights canceled or delayed throughout the area and railroad officials saying snowdrifts might affect service.

The weather snarled traffic across the Island, too, with dozens of fender-benders reported. By 4 p.m., Suffolk police were investigating 85 crashes, a spokesman said.

At Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, 200 flights were canceled, with an additional 350 at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Dozens of workers planned to plow all night at Long Island MacArthur Airport so flights could take off and land this morning as scheduled, the commissioner in charge said Saturday.

The day's business was to begin with the arrival of a Southwest flight from Tampa at 10:05 a.m. and the departure of another Southwest flight for Fort Lauderdale at 10:35 a.m., said Teresa Rizzuto, commissioner for the transportation and aviation department of Islip Town, which runs the airport.

"We'll be ready to accept the flights," she said.

Five of seven flights scheduled to depart after 4 p.m. and eight of 12 arriving flights were canceled Saturday afternoon.

All trips to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., had been canceled by 10:30 a.m. Not long afterward, the list of scrubbed flights was expanded to include some bound for California, Texas and Florida.

At LaGuardia Airport, Chris Matthews, 30, and Ruth Lowe, 25, were planning to camp out at the airport overnight. The two Ramsey, N.J., residents hoped to make a 9 a.m. JetBlue flight to Fort Lauderdale.

"We'll look at it as an adventure," said Matthews, their luggage at their sides as they passed time in the food court.

On the Island, LIRR officials said passengers should check on service before heading for train stations.

"If we get drifts or accumulations of 12 inches or more, we may have a suspension of service," LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone said. "It's not something we want to do, but it would be for the safety of the people and the equipment."

Service on secondary branches probably would be affected first, Calderone said. Extra crews were on standby to monitor the snow-laden storm, and a command center was monitoring tracks and train equipment.

Forecasters said the storm moving up the East Coast was expected to spare New York City strong winds, but not a deep blanket of snow.

Department of Sanitation spokesman Keith Mellis said the department would focus first on clearing snow from primary roads and highways needed by police, fire and emergency vehicles. Crews then would address feeder streets that connect to primary routes, he said.

"We have our salt spreaders positioned throughout the five boroughs," Mellis said.

With Keith Herbert and Ted Phillips

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