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Towns take emergency approach to snowstorm

A New York State department of transportation truck

A New York State department of transportation truck seen along the eastbound LIE service road near on-ramp near Route 112, on Thursday morning in Medford. (Jan. 2, 2014) Credit: James Carbone

About half of Long Island's cities and towns declared pre-emptive snow emergencies Thursday -- a departure from last year, when some authorities were derided for slow responses in snow-packed areas.

Towns deployed hundreds of pieces of equipment and readied thousands of tons of salt. Those declaring emergencies Thursday included the towns of Brookhaven, Huntington, Hempstead, Islip, Southampton and Babylon, the City of Long Beach and Huntington Bay Village.

The Town of Huntington and village of Huntington Bay both pre-empted county and state officials by declaring a snow emergency at 4 p.m. Town of Babylon officials made their declaration at 5 p.m.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said the declaration allows him to circumvent most hiring policies and personnel concerns. "We're prepared for this storm, but there is a lot of uncertainty," Petrone said.

Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow said he doubled the number of police officers on duty until 2 p.m. Friday.

Residents Islandwide were advised to do minimal driving and to remove vehicles from curbsides and roadways. They were also asked not to shovel snow into public streets.

Highway crews in some towns were ordered to be on heightened alert for town roadways, but were also empowered to clear private roads to facilitate emergency access.



Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray's declaration came with a host of closures. The parks department and senior programs scheduled for Thursday afternoon and Friday were canceled, officials said.

"Our employees will be working hard to clear streets from curb to curb, and can only be successful if their path is free of obstacles," Murray said.

In Long Beach, City Manager Jack Schnirman urged motorists to stay home, "off the roads . . . so the plows can do their job."



Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen said 70 trucks were dispatched throughout town early Thursday, with some salting and sanding main roads and schools as early as 6 a.m. He said trucks were "never coming home until the road is clear."

The biggest challenge of the snowstorm, Jorgensen predicted, would be the "blizzard conditions. . . . You get whiteout conditions that hamper our ability."



Babylon Town officials readied 100 vehicles equipped with snowplows Thursday morning and told crews they would likely work into Friday morning, officials said.

"With temperatures down in the teens, we're expecting primarily snow" instead of the ice that marked storms in December, said town spokesman Kevin Bonner.


Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said about 150 department trucks, snowplows and pay-loaders would be used to battle the snow, while roughly 50 parks and waste management vehicles would assist.



Islip Town salted major roads early Thursday, including the 20 to 30 emergency routes, town officials said.

Islip officials said they focused heavily on Ronkonkoma's hilly sections, as well as South Shore areas prone to flooding, such as Oakdale, Bay Shore and West Islip.


Oyster Bay town spokeswoman Marta Kane said the town had more than 80 sanding vehicles and up to 275 plows prepared. All Oyster Bay town programs and activities were canceled until further notice, and Friday's sanitation and recycling will be picked up on the next scheduled day, Kane said.

North Hempstead

North Hempstead Town highway crews began pretreating roads at 5 a.m. Thursday and will likely continue into Friday, town spokesman Ryan Mulholland said.



Hours after Town of Southampton officials declared a limited state of emergency, all town facilities were closed at 6 p.m. Officials said they would remain closed Friday.

Several municipalities also set up command centers Thursday to centralize communications, with many town officials saying they held conference calls with state emergency services officials.

Brookhaven set up its center at the highway department, and highway personnel also had a presence at Town Hall in Farmingville, said Losquadro.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the town would not make decisions on opening a heating shelter until Friday, because he did not want to move elderly and ill people around in the dark unnecessarily.The town's two shelters are in Aquebogue at a senior center and in Calverton at the EPCAL property used now as a recreation and senior center.

Shelter Island Supervisor Jim Dougherty held an emergency preparedness meeting with his staff and the police chief Friday. "It should be business as usual tomorrow," said Dougherty. "We should get six to eight inches, maybe 10. . . . It's not that big a storm." Dougherty said the town board would hold its planned organization meeting as scheduled at 2 p.m. on Friday. Southampton Town crews salted and sanded their roads Thursday morning, said spokeswoman Jennifer Garvey, adding that officials also huddled to review emergency protocol procedures.

Warming centers had not opened in Southold as of 1 p.m. Thursday, but all staffing had been put on alert, Russell said.

Garvey said warming centers were not opened Thursday morning in Southampton Town, but the situation was being monitored. Warming centers in the Town of Huntington may be opened Friday, if needed, said Petrone. Vecchio said "unless electricity and utilities fail, there would not appear to be a need for warming centers" in Smithtown. "In the past, we have designated the senior citizens center as a warming center, but in the last two disasters -- Hurricane Sandy and the February blizzard -- we had advertised having a warming center, and we had no participation from the public."

In Glen Cove, officials set up a warming center at 6 p.m. Thursday at the city's Senior Center at 130 Glen St., Spinello said. The center will be open overnight. Friday trash and recycling has been rescheduled for Saturday.

Hempstead's Murray also asked residents to limit travel, and acquire food and prescription medicine, Deery said.

"Our crews are making final preparations for the upcoming storm, and neighbors should also prepare by doing their shopping and fueling vehicles before the snowfall starts," said Murray in a statement. "Also, residents who are looking to get warm can visit town warming centers on Thursday and Friday."

The Town of Hempstead operated 14 warming centers from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Thursday and Friday, officials said. The centers are at:

Baldwin Senior Center, 1810 North Grand Ave., Baldwin.

Bellmore Senior Center, 2000 Bellmore Ave., Bellmore.

East Meadow Senior Center, 1485 Front St., East Meadow.

Elmont Senior Center, 138 Elmont Rd., Elmont.

Franklin Square Senior Center, 1182 Martha Place, Franklin Square.

Green Acres Senior Center, 400 Flower Rd., Valley Stream.

Levittown Senior Center, 555 Newbridge Rd., Levittown.

Merrick Senior Center, 2550 Clubhouse Rd., Merrick.

Oceanside Senior Center, 2900 Rockaway Ave., Oceanside.

Rosa Parks Senior Center, 2 Babylon Tpke., Roosevelt.

Salisbury Senior Center, 460 Salisbury Park Dr., Westbury.

Uniondale/Hempstead Senior Center, 840 Uniondale Ave., Uniondale.

Uniondale/Merrick Senior Center, 750 Jerusalem Ave., Uniondale.

Wantagh Senior Center, 1150 Seamans Neck Rd., Wantagh.

With James T. Madore, Nicholas Spangler, Aisha Al-Muslim, Patrick Whittle, Jennifer Barrios, Sophia Chang, David Schwartz, Ted Phillips, Deon J. Hampton, Mitchell Freedman, Denise M. Bonilla, Deborah S. Morris and Mackenzie Issler

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