Many Long Island motorists heeded calls to stay off the roads during Thursday’s snowstorm.
Some of those who didn’t? They got stuck.
Dozens of drivers became stranded as the rapidly falling snow coupled with limited visibility made it difficult to see where plows had been and where other vehicles had made tire tracks. Snow piled up so quickly — faster than plows could get to it — that drivers looking to exit highways slammed right into embankments where they expected a somewhat cleared path.
Sgt. Rob Beccaris, with the Nassau County police highway patrol unit, said he saw some “pretty hairy stuff” since he was out on the road starting at 6:30 a.m., including on the Long Island Expressway, which was “littered with disabled motorists” who had veered off the road gone into snowbanks.
“Their cars were no match to the enormity of the storm,” Becarris said.
Allison Aviles, 20, of Medford, was behind the wheel of her Hyundai SUV just before 1 p.m., after her boss sent employees home early from the car dealership where she works. Her car became stuck in the snow while trying to merge on the Long Island Expressway.
“I was driving and the snow was basically evened out on the road, or so it looked. When I tried to get on to the LIE, I just got stuck. I couldn’t go forward or backward,” Aviles said. “It was a little scary. We were on the expressway and people were speeding by, faster that you’d imagine in this type of weather.”
About five minutes later, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone were in a car passing by when they spotted the stranded woman, who was with her friend, Amanda D’Orta, 21, of Farmingville. They “dug out our tires and helped push the car backward,” Aviles said. “They were a lot of help.”
From 5 a.m. until about 3 p.m., Suffolk police received a total of 714 calls to 911; including 217, some of which were for disabled and stranded motorists, a police spokeswoman said.
In Nassau, police received 576 calls for service since 2 a.m., which can include for vehicles stuck in snow, lack of heat or electricity in a home, or crimes, Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said late afternoon. Due to the high number of emergency calls, LeBrun did not have a concise figure of how many of those calls were specifically for stranded motorists.
Suffolk responded to 90 accidents from 5 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and reported no fatalities or injuries, while Nassau police received calls for 88 auto accidents from midnight to 4 p.m., officials in both counties said.
One of the largest accidents occurred about 9 a.m. on the westbound Long Island Expressway at Exit 36, where a jackknifed tractor trailer was involved in a collision with nine other vehicles, LeBrun said. The crash closed the expressway for several exits but it was reopened just after 11:30 a.m. Two people — including a pregnant woman who was shaken up from the accident and another person with a leg injury — were taken to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset for treatment and observation, Beccaris said.
Several of those in need of help were stranded on exit ramps, Sini said. Both county police departments used Humvees and other heavy trucks to find and help motorists. In some cases, where cars were so far off the roadway, responding officers had to call in for the help of a tow truck.
Sini and LeBrun thanked those Long Island residents who listened to officials’ warnings and stayed off the roads. Due to the lower volume of cars on the roads, the call volume and number of accidents were below average, Sini said.
“But even with most motorists off the roads, we’re still getting all these calls,” Sini said. “Which means most of the people who are on the roads are generating a lot of calls for help.”
- From 5 a.m. until about 3 p.m. Thursday, Suffolk police received a total of 714 calls to 911; including 217, some of which were for disabled and stranded motorists.
- In Nassau, police received 576 calls for service since 2 a.m., which can include for vehicles stuck in snow, lack of heat or electricity in a home, or crimes.
Source: Suffolk, Nassau police