Crews Clear Snow From Expressway

Payloaders clear snow from the Long Island Expressway just west of Exit 59, Ocean Avenue, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
Payloaders clear snow from the Long Island Expressway just west of Exit 59, Ocean Avenue, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

The harrowing images of New York’s slice of the massive snowstorm — people stranded overnight, cars abandoned on long stretches of drift-covered highways — were slowly erased Sunday at the far reaches of Long Island, where hundreds of snowplows and heavy equipment descended on a region battered by storm again to help clear the way for Monday’s commute.

Hundreds of plow trucks slogged through the roadways of eastern Long Island on Sunday, making pass after pass on snow-, ice- and sometimes car-clogged roads.

Parts of eastern Long Island were slammed with 30 inches of snow from the storm. Hundreds of cars got stuck on area roads including the Long Island Expressway, a 27-mile stretch of which was closed Sunday for snow-removal work. It was slow going, and even by early afternoon, snow was still packed on some highways.

Suffolk County’s Steven Bellone said the goal was to have most major highways cleared down to asphalt by the end of Sunday.

More than a third of all the state’s snow-removal equipment was sent to the area, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, including more than 400 plow trucks and more than 100 snowblowers, loaders and backhoes.

“The massive amount of snow left behind effectively shut down the entire region,” he said.

The expressway was shut down Sunday morning and initially was expected to re-open at 5 p.m., but authorities pushed that to 9 p.m. for the stretch between Exits 57 and 73. The snow-removal trucks had to deal with not only snow but a layer of ice. They also had to maneuver around abandoned cars.

On Sunrise Highway, which runs parallel to the Long Island Expressway, Dennis Lawrence, of Bellport, N.Y., had already spent 90 minutes digging out the car he had abandoned and had at least another 30-60 minutes to go. He left it there Friday after getting stuck on his way home from his job in New York City.

“The car was all over the place; it just slid over and wouldn’t move,” the 54-year-old elevator mechanic said. “I finally decided today to come and get it.”

In addition to the snow from the storm, his car had gotten buried by snow displaced by passing plow trucks. Meanwhile, the roadway surface was still covered in inches of snow.

All known abandoned vehicles were searched, and no one needing medical help was found, a police spokeswoman for Suffolk County said Sunday.

The glut of stalled cars led to questions about whether officials should have closed roads, as happened in other states.

“Of course, after any storm, we’ll re-examine our procedures, but it’s largely Monday-morning quarterbacking” to criticize roads not being closed sooner, Bellone said.

He said officials had to deal with unique circumstances given the sheer amount of snow that fell and that it started falling sooner than expected.

“The reality is people wanted to get home,” he said. “The storm happened at the worst time.”

It wasn’t just the roads that were affected. Cleanup was under way on the area’s commuter rails, the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad.

Service was restored on two of Metro-North’s three lines, said Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the railroad. Service on the third line, which runs between New York City and New Haven, Conn., was still out north of Stamford, Conn. On the LIRR, service was mostly restored, except on the eastern parts of Long Island.

“A lot of progress has been made,” Arena said. He said the agency would have a better sense Sunday evening of what the Monday-morning commute would be like, but added, “We’re certainly hopeful for providing more service for Monday morning.”

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