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Residents riled by plodding response of plows

East Lake Terrace in Lake Ronkonkoma remained unplowed.

East Lake Terrace in Lake Ronkonkoma remained unplowed. Residents said they haven't seen a plow since the blizzard struck. (Feb. 12, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

After four days of waiting for town plows, Aaron Crocco and his neighbors were fed up. The residents of Elizabeth Court in Selden plowed the street on their own Tuesday, just in time for new snowfall -- 3 to 5 inches were forecast for Wednesday.

"Nobody came at all," Crocco said Tuesday night. "Right now, I'm picking up pizza to celebrate all our hard work."

Many area residents are angry and frustrated that it has taken at least four days for the town and other municipalities to clear streets of snow from the weekend blizzard.

"I think it's awful. It's not something that we haven't seen before," said Brittney Baker, whose street, Lake Promenade in Lake Ronkonkoma, was plowed Tuesday. "A plan should have been in place way before this week."

Brookhaven Councilwoman Kathy Walsh said the town and highway department failed to cooperate for storm preparation. "It's not necessarily the workers in the highway department," said Walsh, who is running for highway department superintendent next month. "But someone needs to be responsible to give them direction. The situation showed there was a lack of leadership somewhere."

Deputy town Supervisor Dan Panico has blamed Michael Murphy, acting town highway superintendent, who town officials said was on sick leave when the blizzard hit Friday. He did not return multiple messages.

"He was told the highway department wasn't prepared. Murphy has clearly dropped the ball on this effort, and the blame falls squarely on him," Panico said. "He's an orchestra conductor who didn't bring in the instruments."

Joel Iturralde of Lake Ronkonkoma was among residents who walked through unplowed streets to get to work. He estimated it took up to three times his normal 10-minute commute to his job at 7-Eleven. "We need to go to work, and 7-Eleven won't close, so we have no choice," said the sales associate.

Three Northport men died in separate instances after trying to remove snow, increasing the number of known snow-related fatalities on Long Island to four, authorities said.

Unplowed roads also hampered rescue efforts.

On Saturday, Dorothy Shannon of Stony Brook woke up with chest pains, and her husband, Michael, called 911.

With their truck unable to make the steep climb up unplowed Beacon Hill Drive to the Shannons on Skyview Lane, half a dozen Stony Brook firefighters trekked through 30-inch-deep snow, loaded her into a medical basket and carried her to the fire truck. After the two-hour rescue effort, doctors at Stony Brook Hospital confirmed she had suffered a heart attack.

Her husband could not join her at the hospital until private plowers cleared the streets on Sunday. "It was just horrendous," said Dorothy Shannon, who was discharged Tuesday. "Nobody was able to get out."

While he was snowbound, Michael Shannon said he called elected officials. Almost every call went unanswered or to full voice mailboxes, he said. "If it wasn't for our neighbors and friends and our regular people and our firemen, we'd be dead," he said. "My feeling was that nobody cared."

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