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Storm dumps more than a foot on parts of LI

Cars blanketed with snow at the Ronkonkoma LIRR

Cars blanketed with snow at the Ronkonkoma LIRR station. (Jan. 27, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

Long Islanders woke up to dangerous travel conditions, limited LIRR service and school delays or closings as snow totals continued to mount Thursday during the "near-blizzard" conditions.

The latest update from the National Weather Service showed snow totals around LI of up to 15 inches in Commack, while over a foot of a snow blanketed other areas in Suffolk County.

The winter storm warning ended at 6 a.m. as the snow stopped falling across the Island.

The Long Island Rail Road restored limited service as of 4:50 a.m. Thursday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced. The MTA has suspended bus services for Long Island and New York City early Thursday morning. 

Forecasters also warned the storm may result in flooding early Thursday in eastern Long Island Sound and on the North Shore in the western Sound.

The first flight at MacArthur airport is scheduled to take off at 1:20 p.m. and a normal schedule is expected after that, according to public affairs officer Catherine Green. She said that passengers should still check with their carriers for possible delays.

JFK and LaGuardia airports were both closed. The JFK website said the airport is planning to reopen at 10 a.m.

State and town officials spent Wednesday scrambling in advance of a storm whose potential to wreak havoc increased by the hour.

The Weather Service in Upton said Long Island's southeastern areas saw between 9 and 14 inches of snow. The same storm a few days ago was expected to spread a relatively gentle blanket of snow 1 to 3 inches deep.

The Long Island Power Authority is currently reporting roughly 880 outages with a majority of those being in Oyster Bay and Smithtown.

The state Department of Transportation to dispatched crews to snow-covered pavements early in the morning and forced local officials brace for the worst.

A lingering snow band is partially responsible for the increase in projected totals, weather service meteorologist Brian Ciemnecki said.

"We have some heavier snow that moved in earlier than we anticipated," he said, noting that 2 to 3 inches fell Wednesday morning.

By Wednesday night, the storm had forced several Long Island towns to declare snow emergencies, canceled nearly 100 flights at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, and caused more than 200 fender benders and other minor traffic collisions in Nassau and Suffolk counties, police said.

The snow caused at least one fatality. A Mastic Beach woman was struck and killed Wednesday afternoon by a pickup truck plowing a Center Moriches bus company parking lot, police said.

Doris Metz, 64, an employee of the First Student Charter Bus Rental Co., 180 Railroad Ave., was struck as she was walking to a company office building at 2:40 p.m., Suffolk police said.

Edward Grundstrom, 47, of Manorville, another employee of the company, was plowing the lot. Grundstrom apparently didn't see Metz because of the poor visibility, police said, and struck her when he backed up the vehicle.

Metz was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Another woman was killed in a midday traffic accident but police had not said it was storm-related Wednesday night.

In another crash, Svitlana Shvets, 42, of Lindenhurst, died after the car she was driving crossed over into oncoming traffic on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown Wednesday afternoon, striking two cars before crashing into a snow bank, police said.

She was taken by ambulance to St. Catherine of Siena hospital in Smithtown where she was pronounced dead, Suffolk police said. Others involved in the accident were treated for nonlife-threatening injuries, police said.

Towns and the state DOT, in a bid to get ahead of the storm Wednesday, sent out plows to clear roads and paths as the snow piled up. The DOT said 200 trucks and 400 workers were on the roads throughout the day.

New York State Police warned drivers that cars abandoned on state roads in Nassau or Suffolk will be towed at the owners' expense. Police announced the measure Wednesday, saying the Parkway Snow Emergency Parking Ban had been put into effect beginning at 3 p.m. It remains in effect until further notice.

With John Valenti, Gary Dymski and Jessica Lewis

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