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Thousands remain in dark after storm moves through LI

Joe Albini surveys damage to parked cars in

Joe Albini surveys damage to parked cars in front of his home on Henry Street in Elwood after strong winds and rain moved through the area, knocking down trees and power lines. (Jan. 31, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

A wind advisory for Nassau and Suffolk counties expired at 6 p.m. after a storm system moved through Long Island Thursday morning, bringing heavy rain and wind gusts exceeding 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Meteorologist David Stark said wind gusts could still reach 35 mph Friday, when the temperatures drop back to about the 30s during the day and mid-teens at night. The winds will diminish slowly, becoming "very light" by Saturday morning, he said.

A few flakes of snow may fall Friday, and the chance of precipitation is high for Saturday overnight, with a little snow possible, turning into rain if the temperatures eke past freezing, Stark said.

Thursday evening, about 3,300 Long Island Power Authority customers were without power as of 9:54 p.m., with most outages in Huntington and Oyster Bay towns, according to the utility's website. Earlier in the day, nearly 30,000 LIPA customers on Long Island were without power.

By early evening Thursday, flight arrivals were averaging wind-related delays of more than three hours at Newark Liberty and less than two hours at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website. There were also scattered departure delays, and the FAA advised travelers to check with their airlines.

The Long Island Rail Road reported residual delays during the afternoon rush hour on its Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma lines, following earlier disruptions caused by a broken utility pole near the LIRR tracks. But then midway into the rush hour commute, signal problems near Brentwood caused longer delays in both directions on the Ronkonkoma line, LIRR said.

Rail road spokesman Salvatore Arena said a LIPA crew had secured the pole by 2:30 p.m. after it broke in the high winds Thursday morning and was leaning over the railroad's tracks just west of the Hicksville station.

On the Island Thursday, the weather took its toll on homes, schools and traffic.

In Elwood, Joe Albini, 27, said he was awakened at 3:30 a.m. by a tree limb crashing through his roof 20 feet from his bedroom and crushing two cars in the driveway of his Henry Street home. The limb punched three holes in the roof and ripped away siding, he said.

Awakened during the height of the storm, Albini, a grocery store manager, said "the wind was really kicking in. . . . This was really a surprise. For us it was worse than Hurricane Sandy."

Both Nassau and Suffolk counties were through the worst of the wind surges by midmorning, Weather Service meteorologist Lauren Nash said.

High winds were reported overnight and into the early morning hours on Long Island, as sustained winds hit 41 mph in Farmingdale at 3:40 a.m. with gusts of 61 mph at 4:04 a.m. At Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, the sustained winds reached 44 mph at 5:03 a.m., with the highest gusts reaching 59 mph at 5:04 a.m., Nash said.

Several roads were reported closed throughout Long Island Thursday morning. Sunrise Highway in Holbrook was closed in both directions between Broadway and Nicolls Road due to downed wires, Suffolk County police said in an advisory just after 11 a.m. All lanes reopened about a half-hour later.

South Broadway in Hicksville was closed in both directions at Engineers Drive because of a "leaning telephone pole with wires hanging," Nassau County police said in an email advisory at 8:15 a.m. South Broadway was reopened by noon, police said.

Ocean Parkway between Robert Moses Causeway and the Jones Beach tower reopened just before 8:30 a.m. after being closed for about two hours "due to storm and sand buildup," the state Department of Transportation said in an email alert. The DOT reported a downed tree had closed Route 114 in Sag Harbor about 6:15 a.m., but the road was reported reopened about 7:30 a.m. Another downed tree closed Main Street at Old Coach Road in Setauket, the DOT said, at about 7:45 a.m.

Ocean Avenue in Ronkonkoma was closed, and Pulaski Road in Greenlawn was closed between Wood Avenue and Oswego Drive, Suffolk police said. And in Brentwood, a fallen tree hit an empty school bus at Madison Avenue and Jackson Street, blocking traffic.

Several Long Island schools reported delays or closings because of weather-related conditions. The Harborfields school district, which announced a two-hour start delay because of a power outage, said three of its schools had to be closed for the day.

The storm system has already left its mark to the south: Two died when tornadoes struck, one in Tennessee when a tree fell onto a storage shed where a man had taken shelter and the second in a Georgia mobile home, The Associated Press reported. In Maryland, AP said, a person was found dead in a flooded homeless camp near the Patuxent River.

With Alfonso A. Castillo, Patricia Kitchen and Ellen Yan

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