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Year’s first major snowstorm brings road hazards, flight delays

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Suffolk County Exectutive Steve Bellone's warning to stay home and "only travel in an emergency" was largely heeded by local residents as a winter storm dumped several inches of snow across the county on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely

The region’s first major snowstorm of 2017 caused hundreds of flights to be delayed or canceled, created hazardous road conditions across Long Island, and delayed rail travel Saturday.

Public officials advised people to stay at home and get cars off the roads as the storm moved in from the south early Saturday morning and by afternoon had arrived in full force. The National Weather Service said the snowfall was expected to stop by midnight after dumping more than a foot of snow on the East End and more than 6 inches in Nassau.

Temperatures in the low 20s created a “very powdery, fluffy snow,” said Jeffrey Tongue, meteorologist with the weather service’s Upton bureau, on Saturday.

“Our normal winter storms, temperatures are closer to freezing so we get a wetter snow,” Tongue said. “This snow, even though it’s pretty heavy, will be relatively easier to clean up because of its lighter nature. So shoveling and such should be much less a task than our normal winter storms.”

A winter storm warning issued by the service Saturday morning advised against traveling during the storm.

“Heavier snow was moving in and travel conditions are quickly deteriorating,” the statement said, warning that snow was likely to fall at rates of an inch per hour.

Several afternoon flights arriving at or departing Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip were canceled or delayed, according to websites for the airport and Southwest Airlines. Some evening arrivals at the airport were delayed, but late-night flights were still on schedule.

Hundreds of departing and arriving flights at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports were delayed or canceled, according to flight information on the Port Authority website.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Shams Tarek said there were scattered delays on the Long Island Rail Road on Saturday because of the snowstorm.

Plainview had the highest reported snowfall total in Nassau, with a trained spotter measuring 9 inches at 8:50 p.m. Trained spotters reported 7.8 inches in East Meadow at 7:24 p.m. and 9.5 inches in East Northport at 8 p.m. The National Weather Service website said Westbury had 6 inches at 6:45 p.m. and Riverhead had 10 inches at 7 p.m.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at a news conference Saturday morning that officials were prepared for the worst.

“Right now this storm is predicted to be a good-size storm, but in comparison to what we’ve seen in the past, moderate-sized,” he said outside the county salt barn in Commack.

Bellone said 170 county vehicles were dumping salt and plowing roads while another 175 contractor vehicles were on standby.

“This is a good weekend to stay at home,” Bellone said.

Several East End bus routes were suspended, Bellone said.

In northern Nassau County, plows had trouble keeping up with the slushy, increasingly slick roads and the Nassau Inter-County Express bus service said on its website that there were “extreme delays” on several lines “due to poor road conditions on the North Shore.”

The snow created difficult conditions for drivers Saturday afternoon but many still took to the road.

New York State Police Trooper Raoul Allen said they were responding to “multiple accidents all over the place.”

“The roads are pretty icy,” Allen said. He said vehicles were getting stuck on the Southern State Parkway but that the crashes had only caused property damage and the road remained open.

Joe Lasorsa, 56, of Center Moriches stopped under an overpass on the side of Route 27 near Exit 63 Saturday afternoon, scraping ice and snow off his Toyota Camry.

Lasorsa, a mechanic, was returning home from work in Southampton.

“I probably would’ve stayed home if I knew it was going to be this bad,” Lasorsa said.

Long Islanders went out for storm supplies while some businesses stayed open.

Grocery and hardware stores were packed in the morning with weekend shoppers gathering food, snow melt and shovels so they wouldn’t have to venture out after the storm got worse Saturday afternoon.

Donna Boboris, owner of Poochy Couture Dog Grooming in Coram, said Saturdays were busy so they decided to stay open, but many of the afternoon appointments were canceled.

“Customers usually cancel in the snow, but today a lot of people still wanted to come in,” she said. “Still we’re getting to go home early.”

Sunday’s weather will be partly sunny and cold with wind gusts out of the northwest of 30 mph blowing the snow around, the weather service’s Tongue said.

With Sarah Armaghan and Jesse Coburn

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