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East Long Island roads a quagmire after snowstorm

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Slogging through their first commute after a 30-inch snowfall, motorists across eastern Long Island found major highways mostly clear Monday but smaller roadways and onramps still packed with a slick concoction of barely plowed snow, ice and falling rain.

Some complained that their neighborhoods had yet to see any major plowing, while others vented at Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local officials for not acting more quickly to shut down major roads ahead of the worst of the storm, as governors in other Northeast states did.

"There were cars scattered all over the place," George Kiriakos, a motorist from Bohemia, N.Y., said at a gas station near the Long Island Expressway. Hundreds of motorists on the LIE, and many other county roadways, were left stranded for 12 hours or more after rapidly falling snow inundated their vehicles late Friday afternoon. Some had to be rescued by National Guardsmen in snowmobiles and taken to firehouses or other emergency shelters.

"They should have just told people in the morning: 'Don't bother going in because we're going to close the roads by 3 o'clock.' I think Boston and Connecticut had the right idea, telling everybody to stay off the roads."

Governors in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island shut down major highways in their states at least five hours before any such closures in New York.

Heavy snow started falling across Long Island between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. But the first shutdown order in New York came at 10 p.m. when Suffolk County police announced the closure of the LIE and Sunrise Highway.

New York State Police issued a subsequent notice after 1 a.m. Saturday, announcing the closure of several parkways in the county. Other local roads were intermittently closed by police as conditions warranted.

Cuomo said Saturday that he wanted to allow people the chance to get home from work but noted that officials had been warning well before the storm struck that the worst of the snow could start by the evening rush hour.

"People need to act responsibly in these situations," Cuomo said.

The Cuomo administration on Monday said that Suffolk County made the call to close the LIE and that the county was responsible for clearing what it describes as a federal highway. A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he wouldn't comment.

On Monday, Cuomo said the decision to close roads is a difficult balance, but he didn't point to anything he would have done differently.

"Local governments ... can make decisions to close roads locally, I can make a decision to close roads across the state if I believe that it's merited by the weather reports that we have. There was no reason for statewide closure of the roads," Cuomo said.

"I can't speak to how the plowing was done in Nassau vs. Suffolk vs. New York City. I just don't know," Cuomo said. "It really was isolated to Suffolk County."

In all, the LIE was kept closed for 27 hours for snow removal, reopening early Monday morning. But even after it reopened, state transportation vehicles were still moving snow from isolated sections of the highway, and entrance and exit ramps remained a slushy mix at midday. Drivers also complained of hard-packed, 6-inch-deep snow and ice in places, creating ice "potholes" that sent slammed vehicles into pockets of blacktop. Fender-benders were seen on several roads during Monday's commute, including one car that flipped over on the LIE.

Despite a steady rain that fell throughout the morning rush hour —ordinarily an ingredient that snarls LIE traffic on the best of days — the roadway was not extraordinarily crowded Monday. Some noted that because 29 local school districts on Long Island were still closed Monday, many people likely opted not to go to work.

Samantha Cuomo — no relation to the governor — complained that treacherous conditions still existed throughout the county. The manager of an adult group home in Miller Place, Cuomo said her typical 40-minute commute was taking her two hours in the storm's aftermath.

"It's horrible, it's an absolute mess," she said. "These roads should be cleared at least once. That's what people pay tax money for. There's no preparation. They knew days prior so I feel like there's no excuse for it."

Anthony Abruzzo, of Wading River, was inclined to give officials a pass.

"I don't think X amount of laws can keep some people from being idiots," he said. "It's Long Island. People do what they want anyway."


Gormley reported from Albany.


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