Towns cancel meetings, open warming centers
Long Island towns opened warming centers, closed recreation centers, suspended trash pickup and canceled countless meetings Tuesday as a severe winter storm bore down on the region.
Brookhaven, Hempstead, Huntington, Islip and the City of Long Beach declared snow emergencies, and the Islip Town-owned Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma canceled flights after 3:15 p.m. because of a storm projected to leave up to 14 inches of snow, accompanied by howling winds and subfreezing temperatures throughout the night.
In a familiar exercise, just 18 days after a near-blizzard deposited less than a foot of snow on the Island, hundreds of trucks crisscrossed thousands of miles of roads Tuesday morning, spreading a briny sand-and-salt mixture before snow began to fall.
"It will help de-ice and enable our plows to get down to the blacktop. You want to stay ahead of the storm," Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto said. "Never let the storm get ahead of you, because then you're in trouble."
Many municipalities encouraged residents to avoid driving so highway crews could plow as the storm became more intense.
Brookhaven went a step further -- declaring a state of emergency that banned nonessential vehicles from town roads after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen said he was concerned about bitter cold expected to linger for days, and high winds that could cause whiteouts.
"I think the weather forecast is saying it's going to stay cold about a week. The snow will be around a lot longer this time," he said. "The wind is not in our favor. It causes the whiteouts and the drifting. . . . That means my workers have to plow an area three or four times to keep the road open."
In North Hempstead, town workers were scheduled to plow the roads continuously overnight into rush hour today, town spokesman Ryan Mulholland said.
Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson said back roads and local residential streets would likely be cleared starting around 2 a.m. Wednesday, depending on weather conditions. "We don't want to have to go back and replow the roads again," he said.
Hempstead, Babylon and the City of Glen Cove opened warming centers. North Hempstead planned to open centers if residents lose power during the storm, town spokesman Ryan Mulholland said.
Municipal board meetings were postponed Tuesday night in Brookhaven Town and Port Jefferson.
The Long Beach school district postponed a forum about the future of East School that had been scheduled Tuesday night. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 at Lido Beach Middle School, officials said.
The Lido and Point Lookout Fire District also postponed a meeting Tuesday night at which it planned to present conceptual designs for a firehouse renovation.
Huntington, Oyster Bay, Brookhaven and Glen Cove also suspended recycling and trash pickup today.
Islip, Huntington and Brookhaven opened emergency operations centers Tuesday, so town officials could work together to keep an eye on the storm and coordinate snow removal efforts.
"Right now," Islip Councilman Anthony Senft said, "we're making sure that all children can get home safely from school and clearing all the emergency routes to our schools, hospitals, police and ambulance stations."
If there was any benefit to the near-blizzard conditions, it was that crews had plenty of snow-clearing practice.
"Those guys basically have it down to a science," Northport Village administrator Gene Guido said.
With Aisha Al-Muslim, Sarah Armaghan, Jennifer Barrios,
Bill Bleyer, Sophia Chang, Mitchell Freedman, Mackenzie Issler, Deon J. Hampton, Lauren R. Harrison, Deborah S. Morris, Ted Phillips, Nicholas Spangler and Patrick Whittle