HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Crews clearing the feet of snow off the Long Island Expressway faced unexpected challenges in Suffolk County — challenges that persisted long after a stretch of the expressway had to be shut down.
As a result, the Long Island Expressway is closed in both directions between exits 57 and 73. Police said earlier that the expressway would reopen around 9 p.m. Sunday, but by midnight Sunday night, the expressway was still closed.
But crews were working hard to get the expressway back open for the morning rush.
“They’re going to drive these down the road to separate the hardpack from the road pavement,” Suffolk County Police Department spokesman Stuart Cameron told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan on Saturday.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that more than 529 pieces of equipment, including 412 additional plow trucks, and 731 operators arrived in Suffolk since Saturday to help remove mounds of snow and ice.
The additional help from New York City, Nassau County and other parts of the state means that more than one third of the state’s snow removal assets are deployed in Suffolk County.
This is one of the largest mobilizations to recover from a winter blizzard in the state’s history, Cuomo announced.
CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported Mobile 2 found the only way to go as the expressway remained closed was the snow-covered service drive. Some other drivers also found their way onto the expressway, and needed a push to get out.
“I didn’t expect it, and I have my daughter in the car, and she has to go to the bathroom, and she’s going crazy,” said Laurel Ugenti. “We’re glad we got freed.”
Amanda Tejada found herself stuck on the expressway earlier in the day.
“I just got stuck; I couldn’t go forward,” said Amanda Tejada. “The car got overheated. I had to just leave it here.”
CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported Tejada’s minivan was no match for the heavy snow. So she understood why it was taking so long for plows to clear the crippled highway.
“Crazy. It’s crazy,” she said. “But what can they do? They’re trying. They’re doing the best they can.”
Good Samaritans have been helping their neighbors push their cars out of mounds of snow.
“Mother Nature just dumped all over us and it’s up to each other to help each other,” a Long Islander told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller.
Another resident said he hopes the effort to clear up the roads is done quickly because he’s been stuck inside for a day and a half.
“You can’t leave the house, can’t do anything when the roads aren’t passable,” a resident named Bob told Miller.
And the day after the blizzard ended, a hard pack of snow and ice nearly eight inches deep were stuck to the surface.
Plows working in a chain across the eastbound and westbound lanes spent hours clearing the road down to the blacktop. By the 10 p.m. hour, the 27 miles of pavement were mostly clear.
It was a big difference from what Chopper 2 HD found in the early morning hours — snow covered lanes in both directions, and crews trying to break up an 8 inch thick hardpack of snow and ice.
“It’s a tremendous job,” said James McGovern of the New York City Sanitation Department. “It’s huge.”
McGovern said crews from all over were on the job all day, with some 400 plows and more than 100 snowblowers, front-end loaders and backhoes donated from the city and the state.
“It’s the amount of snow,” McGovern said. “They got three feet out here. They were actually getting like two and a half, three inches an hour.”
By late Sunday night, the eastbound lanes were down to the blacktop, but westbound still has a way to go. A thin layer of snow and ice still had to be cleared.
That wasn’t good news for Robert Stack of Hampton Bays.
“We’re trying to get to our daughters’ in Ronkonkoma Station,” he said. But he could not get there on the expressway.
Stack and his wife had been on the road all evening from the Hamptons, taking back roads instead of the L.I.E. The closure, added a full three extra hours to their trip.
“Just taking it slow and cautiously, and we’ve got 4 wheel drive so it helps,” he said.
Two days earlier, hundreds of cars were stranded, scattering the L.I.E. as the storm came on faster than commuters could get home Friday night. Some areas were dumped with up to 30 inches of snow.
“The snow just swallowed them up,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said on Saturday afternoon.
The effort to clear off the major highway was badly hamstrung as a result. Crews had to stop every so often so stranded cars could be towed away.
“These roads are so bad,” a Medford resident told 1010 WINS reporter Gene Michaels. “Tomorrow, I can’t see people going to work.”
On top of the snow that fell during the blizzard, frigid temperatures overnight caused a refreeze.
“It doesn’t go away in a matter of minutes, and we need not just patience, but cooperation. We do not need people going on the roads. That is a complicating factor here,” Cuomo said Saturday.
Heavy duty construction trucks had to be deployed to try to break up the packed snow and ice that looks like it’s almost fused to the roadway, Miller reported.
The hope is that the sun may help melt some of the packed snow, Miller reported.
Secondary roads were almost impossible to navigate, Miller reported, so the advise from officials continues to be “stay off the roads.”
The L.I.E. and the Sunrise Highway were closed down on Saturday to everyone except emergency vehicles, but several drivers were spotted on those roadways.
Suffolk police had to use snowmobiles to rescue stranded drivers on the two roadways.
Drivers who left their cars stranded along the L.I.E. can call 631-904-3050 for information, the Suffolk County Police Department announced on Sunday.
Suffolk County Police urged drivers who had to abandon their cars on local roads during the blizzard to call their local precincts for information on tracking down their cars:
- First Precinct 631-854-8100
- Second Precinct 631-854-8200
- Third Precinct 631-854-8300
- Fourth Precinct 631-854-8400
- Fifth Precinct 631-854-8500
- Sixth Precinct 631-854-8600
- Seventh Precinct 631-852-8700