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Lingering effects of winter storm make for light snow overnight

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

Bands of light snow from the winter storm that pummeled parts of Long Island lingered Tuesday night in Suffolk as the storm moved off the coast of Massachusetts.

The National Weather Service also canceled winter storm warnings that had been in effect for eastern Suffolk County.

"We're just seeing the fringe effects," said Weather Service meteorologist Nelson Vaz. Areas east of Islip could see a "dusting" with a worst-case scenario of an inch of snow overnight, while Nassau would see even less.

"We're not going to see significant additional snow," he said. But blowing snow could reduce visibility, the weather service said.

In the wake of the massive storm that hit Long Island Monday into Tuesday, the National Weather Service reported that as of 1 p.m. Tuesday 24.8 inches of snow fell at Long Island MacArthur Airport. That is second only to the 27.8 inches that fell there Feb. 8 and 9, 2013, according to records the weather service has kept since 1984.

At an appearance in Lindenhurst Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said it will take millions of dollars and assistance from across the state to help Long Island recover from the winter storm.

"Suffolk took it right on the chin," Cuomo said of the storm. He said 500 pieces of equipment -- snow plows, dump trucks and front-end loaders -- from New York City and the Hudson Valley, and 100 members of the National Guard are being deployed to help dig out Suffolk communities.

"Two feet of snow is a lot of snow, any way you slice it," Cuomo said. "We want you to know the cavalry is on its way."

But, he said, there are "days of work to do before things return to normal."

He said the cost of the cleanup work from the storm would likely extend into the "millions of dollars."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, appearing with Cuomo, called the weather event "one of the largest storms we've ever seen in this region."

"There's a lot more work to be done," he said, adding that the "top priority" was to clear the county's roadways.

Meanwhile, Long Island will likely see two more snow events in the upcoming days -- although neither will be as strong as the current one, said John Cristantello, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Upton bureau.

A "light snowfall event" is likely for Thursday night into Friday, bringing a possibility of an inch or two of snow mixed with rain, he said, while a slightly stronger event is possible for Sunday night into Monday.

"It looks moderate," Cristantello said. "So far, not like what we just had."

The forecast came as Long Island continued to recover from the strong winter storm.

Elsewhere on Long Island, motorists could drive on major roadways in Nassau County and much of Suffolk County as well as New York City by 8 a.m. Tuesday.

While Cuomo lifted a travel ban on roads and rails, he continued to encourage residents to stay off the roads.

Officials in eastern Suffolk said roads remained treacherous Tuesday.

By late Tuesday afternoon, though, Southold and Riverhead had lifted their travel bans -- although Riverhead Town police recommended that residents continue to stay off the roads. Shelter Island lifted the ban Tuesday morning, officials said.

The towns of Southampton and East Hampton continued their bans Tuesday evening.

Highways in Southold were clear Tuesday afternoon, but side streets remained covered in snow.

"We got a lot of snow, but we're hanging in there," Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.

Visibility at one point overnight Monday into Tuesday got so bad on the North and South forks that plows were pulled off the roads.

Bill Korbel, meteorologist with News 12 Long Island, said the storm was technically a blizzard, at least in the area around MacArthur Airport. Winds must be sustained or frequently at 35 mph or more, in addition to snowfall that reduces visibility frequently to less than a quarter mile.

Korbel said winds at the airport were more than 35 mph for much of the night, with visibility down to an eighth to a quarter mile after midnight Tuesday.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday said it still was determining whether the storm could officially be classified as a blizzard.

"We have seen some observations that support a blizzard, but we're not done verifying that," Cristantello said.

Meanwhile, New York City will send equipment to help communities that got the brunt of the storm, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

"We know Suffolk County is hurting right now," he said. "Whatever Suffolk County needs that we can spare, we're certainly going to make sure that we give them that help."

While the National Weather Service had predicted potentially historic snowfall totals for the city, those totals never materialized.

"Everybody's focused on where it didn't snow," National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "Bring your attention to where it actually did snow" -- like Long Island.

In Southampton, where snowfall totaled 28 inches by Tuesday afternoon, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said heavy snowfall and high winds complicated plowing efforts.

"The drifts are huge," Throne-Holst said. "We're doing our best to plow out, but it's a very difficult job out here."

All Southampton's plow operators and contractors, estimated in the hundreds, were working, though they suspended plowing between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. due to whiteout conditions, Throne-Holst said.

"Because of the wind, they go through with the plows, and within minutes it's back on," she said of the situation Tuesday morning. "Where people are venturing out, they are getting stuck."

In East Hampton, many of the roads were "totally impassable," Deputy Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc told News 12 Long Island.

He said it will take several days to get the roads clear, and added an entreaty to residents: "Please don't take your cars out on the road. You are only going to get stuck."

Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said "whiteout" conditions with heavy snowfall persisted in Montauk Tuesday afternoon, and roads remained choked by snow and a layer of ice.

"A lot of people are trapped in their homes and will probably be trapped for another day," he said. "I hope they stocked up on supplies."

Southold Town Highway Superintendent Vincent Orlando said his crews thought they were beginning to make headway against the snow after a long night of clearing roads, only to have the wind and snow bury them again on Tuesday.

"It was a repetitive thing you had to do all over again without having the satisfaction of having the streets cleared," he said.

Orlando said the town's 30 plows and five payloaders hit the streets at 9:30 p.m. Monday and continued plowing until 4:30 a.m., when a highway department foreman reported he could no longer see the hood of his truck due to blinding snow.

Orlando said the crews may have to work until midnight Tuesday to clear Southold's 205 miles of roads.

Unofficially, the highest measured snowfall on Long Island was in Southampton, which received 28.8 inches, according to a public observation the National Weather Service posted on Tuesday afternoon. Orient was close behind, with a recorded 28.5 inches of snow. The most snowfall in Nassau County fell in Massapequa, which saw 17.8 inches by 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, the service said.

Wind gusts reached as high as 60 mph at Westhampton Airport in Suffolk County, and 50 mph at MacArthur Airport.

Meanwhile, accidents and 911 calls were light or barely above a normal day, Suffolk and Nassau police said.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said the travel ban was key to keeping the county safe.

"Given the blizzard conditions we were fighting, I would give our performance an A-plus," Mangano said Tuesday morning.

There was at least one death on Long Island during the snowstorm. An East Northport teen died after he hit a pole while snow-tubing in Huntington, Suffolk police said.

In some cases, anticipated storm problems did not materialize as some had feared.

Long Island state park beaches saw no significant erosion, though there was minor erosion at Gilgo and Captree state parks, said George Gorman, deputy regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

In Southampton, officials have not been able to reach the South Shore to see if there has been beach erosion, Throne-Holst said. There were no reports of serious erosion or flooding on the town's northern coastline, she said.

Schneiderman said serious erosion was visible on the ocean beach in Montauk, the site of a planned $9 million Army Corps of Engineers beach-fortification project this year.

"I would say tomorrow the hotels will still be there, but the Army Corps of Engineers will probably have to recalculate a bit," he said. "They're definitely losing a chunk of beach."

Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said 50 plows and 20 payloaders have been on the streets since 5 a.m. Monday, and crews would probably have to continue working until Wednesday afternoon. He estimated the costs of the storm cleanup in that town could reach $300,000, including overtime, contractors and supplies.

He estimated workers have helped free 15 stranded drivers in town Tuesday.

PSEG Long Island has reported scattered outages, but not the high numbers some had anticipated.

A total of 7,079 customers lost power since midnight Monday. Shortly before midnight Tuesday, the utility reported 56 customers systemwide affected by five outages.

The utility said it was sending home all off-Island workers who came to help restore power in the event of outages. So far the storm had "little impact" on the electric grid, PSEG said.

With Will James, Darran Simon, Mark Harrington, Gary Dymski, David M. Schwartz, Emily C. Dooley, Matthew Chayes, Robert Brodsky, Patricia Kitchen, Ellen Yan, Laura Figueroa and John Asbury


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