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East End recovers last after taking brunt of winter storm

A man plows a path off of Village

A man plows a path off of Village Lane in Orient on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. Credit: Randee Daddona

East End residents dug, scraped and plowed their communities back to life Wednesday, more than 24 hours after that section of Long Island bore the brunt of a storm that dropped more than 2 feet of snow in some areas.

Daily life gradually resumed across the North and South Forks, as plows and payloaders cleared snow-clogged side streets and chipped away at towering roadside mounds. Town supervisors and village mayors lifted emergency declarations, trains started running again and some municipal employees returned to work.

The weather service classified this week's storm Monday as a blizzard in Suffolk, where snowfall amounts were highest: Orient recorded 30 inches, Southampton was hit with 29, Mattituck, 26.9. Nearly 20 communities in the county recorded 20 inches or more, according to the service.

The storm crippled much of Long Island. While an Islandwide travel ban on roads was lifted at 8 a.m. Tuesday, towns on the East End issued their own travel restrictions as the storm moved east and lingered. East Hampton was the last one to lift its ban, at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Some East End school districts were to remain closed Thursday, with officials citing concerns about back roads, while others planned to reopen. Nassau schools reopened Wednesday and most of Suffolk's will reopen Thursday.

In Montauk, one of the hardest-hit communities, crews dug through high drifts that powerful winds had piled up.

"It hasn't been like this in a long time. You'd have to go back to the '80s to see something comparable," said Jim Martell, a lifelong Montauk resident who owns a gas station and store in the hamlet. "It took me a day to get out of my house. It's extraordinary."

On the North Fork, residents emerged from their homes to find major roads clear and the sun shining on mounds of snow. Love Lane Kitchen, a cozy and popular restaurant in Mattituck, bustled as families who had dug themselves out sought relief from cabin fever.

"The kids are out from school and people are happy to venture out of their house, the sun is out, so it's good," owner Carolyn Iannone said.

"It's actually a little more busy than a normal Wednesday during the week," she said.

Greenport's main drag, Front Street, was blocked in the afternoon as crews used dump trucks and plows to haul off snowdrifts higher than 10 feet. "We're not even sure if we had this much snow two years ago" in the February 2013 blizzard that crippled Long Island, village clerk Sylvia Pirillo said.

Even as East End crews were wrapping up cleanup, forecasters predicted two more light snowfalls. Up to an inch is expected late Thursday through midday , said John Murray, weather service meteorologist, based in Upton. The system also is expected to usher in a temperature drop starting Friday, falling into the lower teens at night, he said.

Then, Sunday into Monday, the forecast calls for a chance of light snow, but a track shift to the north could mean more of a wintry mix.

Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said that with curbs already piled high, crews may have to use dump trucks to haul any significant new snow. "You can only push it so much," he said.

Tuesday's winds also caused mild erosion that left ocean beaches in Montauk, East Quogue and Quogue more vulnerable to future storms, said Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist in Westhampton Beach.

"That's one of the dangers of these winter storms, is that they can happen in rapid succession," Terchunian said.

"The second storm doesn't have to be that powerful. It can be the same storm and do much more damage."

The erosion of Montauk's ocean beach, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning a $9 million beach fortification this year, was "not significant enough" to impact the project, agency spokesman Chris Gardner said.

Wind also posed a challenge for highway crews in rural parts of the North and South Forks, as snow swirled off farm fields and back into roadways. "If there are places where there's no snow fencing, it just blows back over," said Suffolk Legis. Al Krupski, a Cutchogue farmer.

With Patricia Kitchen

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