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Freezing rain slicks LI roads; uptick in accidents, injuries

An accident involving a plow or sander truck

An accident involving a plow or sander truck and a car on College Road in front of Suffolk County Community College in Selden Friday morning. (Jan. 10, 2014) Credit: Stringer News Service

January's treacherous winter clutch on Long Island continued Friday with ice-coated roadways causing dozens of motor-vehicle accidents and slick conditions filling hospital emergency rooms with weather-related injuries.

Suffolk and Nassau police departments received a flood of reports of weather-related fender-benders, and each issued advisories warning motorists of dangerously slick roads as freezing rain swept across the Island.

The temperature was "right around 32 degrees" at about 9 a.m. and for the next two to three hours -- just as the rain moved into Nassau and spread east, National Weather Service meteorologist Lauren Nash said.

In a two-hour span, Suffolk reported 600 ambulance calls, said John Jordan, a deputy commissioner with the county's Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services Department.

Jordan said there were no serious accidents. Officials said that the call volume was about twice what would be seen during a typical day during the same time.

"This just didn't overwhelm the fire service, it overwhelmed the police department," he said.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Suffolk, there were at least 250 vehicle crashes and also 300 calls for help, which exclude car accidents but counts slip and falls and medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, Suffolk police reported.

Nassau police said they did not experience response problems.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 129 patients were transported to area hospitals, 61 of them by Nassau County police ambulance and 68 by fire department ambulance, said Brian Nevin, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano.

Hospitals in both counties reported increased activity in their emergency rooms because of the weather.

"We have ambulances unloading as fast as they can -- one after the other, after the other. Some are slip-and-fall, and some are car accidents," Dr. Peter Viccellio, director of emergency medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital, said during a short, midday break.

"The injuries run the whole gamut: head, back, wrist, ankle. These are absolutely typical injuries for falling on ice," he said, adding that the hospital has called in about 20 to 25 percent more personnel.

Stony Brook had treated 40 to 50 weather-related injuries by late afternoon, a spokeswoman said.

At Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, the emergency department treated 60 patients for slip-and-fall injuries and weather-related car accidents between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said.

A spokeswoman for Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre said there was a "significant increase in cases," and that about 45 people had been treated for weather-related injuries by 3 p.m.

Friday's icy conditions come on the heels of about a six-day span this month in which eight weather records pertaining to cold and precipitation were set, according to the weather service.

And there's more precipitation to come, courtesy of a low-pressure system: A flood watch is in effect Saturday, as heavy rain -- up to 2 inches and perhaps more -- is expected, the service said.

A wind advisory is in effect from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, as sustained winds 15 to 25 mph with gusts 45 to 50 mph are predicted, the National Weather Service said.

With Gary Dymski, Ellen Yan, Paul LaRocco and Robert Brodsky

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