This story was reported by Jennifer Barrios, Valerie Bauman, Matthew Chayes, Emily C. Dooley, Lisa Irizarry, Emily Ngo, Ted Phillips and David M. Schwartz. It was written by Barrios.
Long Islanders spent Sunday digging out and taking stock after a power-packed weekend nor’easter knocked out transit, closed roads and was blamed in four deaths.
Across Nassau and Suffolk counties, the massive storm brought the nation’s largest commuter rail line to a halt through Monday morning and caused minor flooding in coastal areas.
In its wake, the winter blast left behind more than two feet of snow across Long Island, forcing many out into the cold to shovel snow. In some cases, it led to their deaths.
An Oyster Bay Cove man was killed Sunday when a private snowplow struck him as it removed snow from his property, Nassau police said. Saturday, three people died after shoveling snow.
The high winds and heavy snowfall also turned normally bustling communities into ghost towns as motorists took heed of a travel ban ordered by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Several school districts said they would be closed Monday or delay opening, and local officials warned motorists that although the storm has passed, the threat of road icing remains.
Yet, even with treacherous roads, mounds of snow and concerns that high tides would bring coastal flooding and memories of superstorm Sandy’s devastation, it could have been much worse, relieved government officials said Sunday.
Widespread power outages, which many feared, did not occur despite a perfect storm of blizzardlike conditions including winds clocked at 65 mph on some parts of Long Island.
Cuomo credited offshore winds blowing out to sea with keeping high surf away from the Long Island’s vulnerable South Shore. He said infrastructure improvements since Sandy in 2012 also helped to keep flooding at manageable levels.
“Mother Nature can be fickle and she did a lot of damage, but the wind last night and the wind pattern was actually helpful for Long Island,” Cuomo said Sunday.
He said berms, dunes and walls built since Sandy did their job.
“Many of the modifications since Sandy made a difference,” the governor said.
But the first large winter storm of 2016 was far too much for the Long Island Rail Road to handle. By 4 p.m. Saturday, the last trains had departed before the entire system shut down because of safety concerns.
On Sunday, the LIRR remained closed, but officials said commuters would see mostly restored service by Monday morning.
The railroad focused Sunday on resuming service on its most heavily traveled lines, said LIRR spokeswoman Meredith Daniels.
“There’s a lot of progress, but . . . the snow is just overwhelming,” Daniels said. “There was a lot to clean up.”
Cuomo said the lack of a functioning LIRR for the start of the workweek was a dim prospect.
“Obviously, Monday morning from Long Island without the Long Island Rail Road operating is not a pretty picture,” he said Sunday at a news conference.
For many Long Islanders, clear, sun-drenched skies above belied what awaited them on the ground Sunday as they steeled themselves with snowblowers or shovels and prepared to dig out.
“Too much snow, man,” said Carlos Vallec with a huff as he leaned on his snow shovel — taking a brief respite after lifting heaps of snow from the front of his Riverhead home Sunday morning.
Vallec, 32, had just powered through a frozen mound of nearly 20 inches of snow to carve a path from his front door to the road. Still to come, Vallec said, was digging out his car so he could go to work Monday.
“It’s a pain in the butt,” he said of the sea of frozen white in his front yard.
In Baiting Hollow, Chuck Schaefer took his time, but remained committed to using just a shovel to burrow his way through snow piled high on his driveway.
Family pleas for him to get a snowblower were not enough to convince him to bring in the heavy snow-removing artillery, he said.
“My wife berated me again,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m stubborn.”
The hazards of snow removal were too much for some Long Islanders.
Police reported three storm-related deaths Saturday and a fourth Sunday, all related to snow removal.
Al Mansoor, a 66-year-old Oyster Bay Cove resident, was standing in front of his Cove Woods Road home Sunday afternoon when he was hit by a snowplow removing snow from his property. He was transported to North Shore Syosset Hospital a short time later where he was pronounced dead, Nassau police said.
A 94-year-old man was found collapsed outside next to a snowblower in Smithtown at noon Saturday, Suffolk police said. A 75-year-old Huntington Station woman died at Huntington Hospital after she had difficulty breathing while shoveling snow at her home Saturday. In Nassau, a 61-year-old man went into cardiac arrest shoveling snow in West Hempstead at 4 p.m. Saturday, police said.
In emergency rooms, health hazards from the storm were not hard to miss in the form busier-than-usual waiting areas.
About a quarter to a third of the weekend’s emergency-room visitors came in with snow-related injuries, said Dr. Chris Calendrella of Northwell Health on Long Island.
Nassau University Medical Center’s emergency room had an uptick in cases Sunday, said hospital president Dr. Victor Politi. By 7 p.m. Sunday, Politi said up to 20 patients had visited the E.R., mostly for falls, bruises, and contusions related to the nor’easter.
“Because it was a beautiful, sunny day, the roads opened and they packed the ER,” Politi said. “We were pretty much at capacity the entire day.”