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High winds knock down trees, wires; thousands out of power

A fallen tree in front of the home

A fallen tree in front of the home on Orbit Lane in Uniondale, after heavy winds sweep across Long Island, Sunday, April 3, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Thousands were without power Sunday on Long Island as high winds toppled trees and brought down power lines and gusts of up more than 60 mph were recorded.

The National Weather Service put out a high wind warning for the region until 6 p.m. Sunday along with a freeze warning in effect from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. Monday.

Two-tenths of an inch of snow fell at Islip Airport Sunday and peak wind gusts exceeded 60 miles per hour in some areas, said News 12 Long Island meteorologist Norm Dvoskin The cold temperatures and high winds are expected to continue Monday and Tuesday, he said.

“It’s really not unsusual; April’s a disappointing month,” said Dvoskin. “In order to get spring weather, you have to get to the middle of May.”

Wind gusts of 63 miles per hour were recorded in the waterfront hamlet of Eatons Neck; 55 in Farmingdlae and 54 at Captree State Park in Babylon, Dvoskin said.

PSEG Long Island reported 1,375 customers without power as of 8:40 p.m.

“It’s windy — that’s the main story today,” said Brian Ciemnecki, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Upton. “There’s a low pressure system out of the Great Lakes that’s now pulling away and rapidly intensifying as it moves. There’ll be a lot of cold air coming behind it.”

In Levittown, high winds caused a tree to topple over power lines, causing a house fire on Harrow Lane.

Homeowner Pat Heeger, 76, was on her way to church to sing in the choir when she heard a loud boom. “There was a big tree in my backyard,” she said during a Sunday interview at her home.

A neighbor’s tree had knocked down power lines that landed in her backyard, somehow starting the fire. As of early Sunday, code enforcement officials at the home had yet to determine what caused the fire.

Heeger, who has lived at the home for 52 years, became overcome with emotion as she walked into her bedroom for the first time as officers finished their investigation.

“Oh my God, she said, using her hand to cover her trembling mouth. Heeger’s bedroom smelled of smoke and charred wood. Furniture had fallen from the attic onto her bed.

“All my antique books are ruined,” said Heeger, looking at her bookshelf. A former antiques collector, she purchased the books and magazines, well over 100 years old, she said, back in the 1960s.

Heeger, surrounded by her children, said she planned to stay elsewhere Sunday night.

Citing high winds, officials from the Town of Oyster Bay postponed a ceremony to introduce a new baseball field in Plainview specially designed for children with disabilities. Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia said officials were working to decide on a later date for the event that had been planned Sunday at noon at the Fern Place School in Plainview

Suffolk police said Sunday morning that more than two dozen trees were down throughout the county. There were reports of poles and wires down in West Islip, Port Jefferson, Bay Shore and other communities.

Grace Rovtar ran out of her Patricia Avenue home in Islip about 9:30 a.m. after hearing a “loud bang.” A 20-foot tree on her neighbor’s property was ripped from its roots, bringing wires down with it, and had smashed onto her Chevy Silverado and her neighbor’s pickup truck.

A few minutes later, a transformer attached to a pole outside her home spewed liquid onto her cars.

A construction arrived about a half hour later, she said, to remove the transformer and clear the wires from the road.

An environmental services company poured speedy dry on the ground to treat the chemicals emitted from the transformer.

A downed tree was blocking Route 25 in Cutchogue, and as of about 1 p.m. Sunday the LIRR was experiencing delays averaging of 15 to 20 minutes in both directions on the Port Jefferson Branch due to a fallen tree east of Kings Park Station.

The 12:10PM train from Jamaica due into Montauk at 3 p.m. was delayed at Speonk due to congestion caused by a fallen tree on the track east of Southampton, the LIRR said.

And in Bellmore, firefighters responded to a report of a tree down with wires burning on Marine Place in one of the many locations in Nassau where power was out.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey put out an alert Sunday morning saying that flights in the area could be disrupted by the high winds.

Eileen Peters, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Transportation, said crews have been working around the clock to address fallout from the wind and will continue to do so throughout the Monday morning commute.

“Our crews have been on since one o’clock this morning. They’re monitoring the weather forecasts and monitoring roads in residential areas throughout Long Island,” Peters said. “Fortunately the snow dissipated very quickly this morning, but we have had some downed trees that have been cleared.”

Peters said crews cleared fallen trees from Route 25A in Muttontown, the Southern State Parkway westbound between Exits 25 and 24, and Route 106 Bellmore. “We’ve been coordinating with the police to close those roads so the trees could be cleared.”

Crews will continue to monitor any problems throughout Sunday night she added.

“A skeleton crew will remain on throughout the night to treat the roads and respond to any situations necessary in order to keep traffic flowing during tomorrow (Monday) morning’s commute,” Peters said.

Dvoskin said the wind gusts on the East End were expected to be strongest, with gusts predicted there of 65 mph.

“We’ll get the strongest winds until around noon, then the sun will come out later and warm up a bit,” Ciemnecki said. But temperatures will remain cooler than normal, he added, with a high predicted only in the mid to upper 30s to near 40, and the low in the upper 20s. The normal high is 53 and the low 37.

“It’ll be well below normal today,” Ciemnecki said. “Maybe by 2 p.m. there could be some leftover snow showers,” he added.

The weather service warned that the cold Sunday night could kill sensitive plants left outside.

More wintry weather is ahead for the morning commute on Monday when Ciemnecki said snow and freezing rain are expected between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

“It’s going to be a mixed bag,” Ciemnecki said. “There’ll be snow and freezing rain that changes over to rain, but you’re looking at a high of 48 so the freezing rain isn’t going to last too long.”

The winds will have died down by Monday, Ciemnecki said, and lows will be in the mid 20s.

Look for mostly sunny skies Tuesday and highs in the upper 30s and lows again in the mid 20s.

More sun is forecast for Wednesday when highs will reach the upper 40s and it will be around 40 for the low.

Wet weather could return on Thursday and Friday when showers are predicted throughout the day for both days.

Thursday’s highs will be in the mid to upper 50s and lows will dip into the low 40s, while on Friday the high will be in the low 50s and the low will be near 30, Ciemnecki said.

With Rachel Uda and Nicole Fuller

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