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LI digs out of the snow, faces deep freeze

Javier Rodriguez, of Flanders, takes a break from

Javier Rodriguez, of Flanders, takes a break from clearing snow on Main Road in Southold. (Jan. 22, 2014) Credit: Randee Daddona

Long Islanders digging out from a foot of snow endured single-digit temperatures and a face-numbing wind chill of 14 degrees below zero Wednesday, but that only proved to be a prelude to a lingering deep freeze.

Even as roads throughout the region returned to normal, warming centers remained open and residents were advised not to put away their long johns and heavy coats.

The forecast calls for temperatures to remain at or below freezing for the next week -- the latest bad news for a region battered by a series of arctic blasts.

"We're looking at some temperatures in the lower single digits, with wind chill factors as low as minus 20," said Tim Morrin, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton. "There is no reprieve from the cold."

Thursday's high in Islip is expected to be in the low 20s, which would be slight relief from the overnight low of 9 degrees, but below normal for this time of year, the weather service said. There's a chance of flurries Thursday and light snow on Saturday.

Wednesday's snow day -- in which schools closed, roads were plowed by an armada of trucks, and airports, trains and buses struggled to get back to speed -- persuaded many to simply stay indoors.

Mohammad Khan, a businessman and father of two from Hicksville, said his family canceled plans to redecorate their house and go to a doctor's appointment.

"We're just trying to make warm soup," he said. "We're trying to stay inside as much as possible."

The storm swept into the region Tuesday morning and kept dropping snow over Long Island for about 24 hours.

Snowfall measured 11.2 inches in Islip and topped a foot in other areas but didn't break records, the weather service said.

The snow total since Nov. 1 rose to 30.8 inches, said Joe Picca, a weather service meteorologist. Only the 2010 season that paralyzed New York City and the 1996 snowstorms that clobbered the region dumped more snow by this date, he said.

The wind chill was measured at 14 below zero yesterday morning in Islip; 13 below in Farmingdale; and 11 below in Shirley, the weather service said.

Hundreds of public, parochial and other private schools were closed Wednesday on the Island, while others delayed starts.

Most towns claimed success in quickly clearing local roads. In most areas, cleanup crews plowed through the night, then dropped loads of sand and salt to help prevent icing.

Babylon Department of Public Works Commissioner Tom Stay said Wednesday that main roads were "down to blacktop," but workers were still out clearing and de-icing secondary roads.

"The sun today helped, but obviously the temperatures didn't," he said.

The fluffy snow didn't overburden power lines, according to PSEG Long Island. About 1,200 customers in Coram were without power overnight because of a downed utility pole, but PSEG reported only 16 customers were without power at daybreak Wednesday.

After a torturous commute Tuesday night, residents faced a still-tricky commute the following morning.

"I just missed the train," said Steve Gordon, 56, a company comptroller waiting for a New York City-bound train at the Farmingdale station. "I really didn't look at the schedule."

Not that it would have helped much, with Long Island Rail Road trains running on a weekend schedule and thousands of passengers experiencing widespread delays. LIRR officials said service would return to its regular weekday schedule Thursday.

The commute was also challenging for bus riders.

Nassau Inter-County Express warned that its routes were operational but riders were facing "major delays." Suffolk County Transit got its buses off to a late 8 a.m. start and also experienced delays.

With hundreds of flights canceled at the three major metropolitan-area airports, air travelers faced another rough day as well.

At Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, operations returned to normal Wednesday, with only one canceled flight, said Inez Birbiglia, an airport spokeswoman.

The airport's two runways had been shut down for about 10 hours until 5:30 a.m. The first scheduled flight Wedneday, a Southwest jet headed to Orlando, Fla., took off at 11:35 a.m.

"There was so much snow on runways, and there was so such accumulation," Birbiglia said. "They plowed all night. It was nonstop all evening."

The mounds of snow, for some, were an opportunity for winter fun.

Steve and Carla Daniel of Glen Cove watched three of their kids climb into a toboggan atop a hill behind Robert M. Finley Middle School. Their fourth child, at 19 months, paid little attention.

"It's cold, but the kids are loving it," said Carla Daniel, 31.

James Huvane, 45, a contractor, was also there with his children, a boy and a girl -- but he wasn't just a spectator.

"Once you have kids, you get back into it," the Glen Cove resident said. "It makes you a kid again."

His approach to sledding on a knee board was simple: "Go down on a wing and a prayer and hope you don't face-plant -- 'cause it's cold!"

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