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Towns begin to call snow emergencies

If road workers are "professional snow fighters," as Smithtown highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen has called them, then they're in for another round Wednesday into Thursday morning.

And at least two towns are throwing the first punch in the fight to keep up with a storm predicted to drop 8 to 12 inches of snow on Long Island.

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone declared an official snow emergency, effective at 5 p.m., and canceled tonight's events at town facilities.

Declaring the snow emergency empowers the town supervisor "to close roads, appropriate necessary equipment from all sources and make necessary purchases without following the usual procedures," Petrone said in a news release.

He also ordered the town's emergency operations center on Pulaski Road in Huntington Station to open at 6 p.m. "to help coordinate communications among Town departments and fire and rescue services."

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray also declared a snow emergency.

Murray urged residents to limit use of cars to necessary travel and "requested that residents remove cars from local roadways," so plows can more effectively remove the snow, she said in a news release.

Predictions for as much as a foot of snow had Smithtown and other Long Island crews out sanding and salting roads as well as laying down brine.

Town of Islip Public Works Commissioner Richard Baker said the town got a head start by coating about 80 percent of town roads with a brine - a saltwater solution - on Monday and Tuesday.

That helped melt the 1 to 3 inches that fell Wednesday morning, he said.

"I think we bought about three or four hours of plowing because of the brine operation," Baker said Wednesday.

He said the town has six plows on standby starting at 5 every morning during the winter - just in case.

Brookhaven Town workers began plowing the roads around midmorning when the snow started to accumulate, said Deputy Highway Supervisor Lori Baldassare.

Town officials believe Brookhaven has enough sand and salt reserves to handle the week's expected storms, but it could dip into reserves at the Yaphank landfill if supplies run low, Baldassare said.

"We have to take it hour by hour," she said.

Hempstead has more than 225 pieces of equipment at its disposal and responding to the storm, said town spokesman Michael Deery.

"We were prepared for the storm because we had prepared in advance," he said. "Our folks were out salting since 7 in the morning. They are going to continue to plow and address the storm as it continues, and they will continue to monitor it as well."

In the Town of Oyster Bay, Supervisor John Venditto said he told himself Tuesday night: "I think it's going to be snowing by daybreak."

Highway workers went out sanding at 7 a.m.

"We were there pounding the road," Venditto said.

Venditto said the town budgeted $1.8 million for snow removal in 2011, and has already spent more than $100,000 on January storms. "The way things have been going, I think this budget is going to be taken to the limit," the supervisor said.

Jorgensen also said with six separate snow incidents this winter, "the budget is getting tight."

Wednesday, the early sanding and salting was key to preventing snow accumulation, most officials agreed. They said it makes roads easier to clear and safer for the public.

"The traffic packs it down and then it turns to ice," Jorgensen said.

Weathering a snowstorm is old hat for the pros.

"We're professional snow fighters and road builders," Jorgensen said.

With Aisha Al-Muslim and Patrick Whittle

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