PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Long Island Expressway finally opened Monday morning following Friday into Saturday’s blizzard. The storm turned a massive part of the highway in a snow-covered parking lot.
Stranded Centereach driver Mike Romano said Mother Nature can’t be stopped, but he had no idea what stopped the snow plows during the blizzard.
“I didn’t see any of the main roads being plowed,” Romano told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
Romano said he spent nine hours stranded in his car without a coat. He said he called Suffolk County police three times.
“They said there were 700 other calls,” Romano said.
The blizzard hit during rush hour Friday with thousands like Romano still on the LIE and Suffolk roads. CBS 2 witnessed the unprecedented result: countless cars in ditches and stuck in snow drifts, stranded by the hundreds. Even snow plows and ambulances got stuck.
And reinforcements never came.
Even the next day the LIE was unnavigable. Ramps remained untouched. CBS 2’s Chris Wragge managed to make it onto the expressway in Mobile 2 and literally stopped in the middle of the highway and got out to survey what appeared to be tundra.
On Monday, following three full days closure, crews worked to get the LIE open, but the service roads through Suffolk and its major arteries were still a bumpy and icy mess, CBS 2’s Gusoff reported.
Help eventually arrived from all over the state. So what took so long and why couldn’t state and Suffolk County plows do the job?
“I can’t answer that. This was an unprecedented event. This is something that we’ve never seen before,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
Bellone said there will be time for evaluating the response to the storm, but the Automobile Association of America didn’t waste time weighing in, saying state and county road crews were caught unprepared.
Spokesman Robert Sinclair Jr. said members complained that the major thoroughfare should have been kept open by more frequent plowing.
“That signals the fact that there was pretty bad conditions that seems like it should not have gotten that way,” Sinclair Jr. told WCBS 880.
Sinclair said state and local governments responded well, but didn’t do enough before the storm struck on Friday. There was no immediate response from Suffolk County or the Cuomo administration.
“They really weren’t keeping up with what the storm was doing. It was a dynamic storm, without a doubt. And some places where we got 11 inches in the city and 22 inches on Long Island or 30 inches in the far reaches of Long Island, perhaps the inexactness of the science caught up with them this time around to the point where they couldn’t keep up with the snowfall,” Sinclair Jr. told WCBS 880.
However, the New York State Department of Transportation, which plows the LIE and its ramps, said late Monday that blizzard winds blew snow back onto the roads and ramps within minutes of being plowed.
Governor Andrew Cuomo called it one of the largest mobilizations to recover from a winter blizzard in the state’s history.
Suffolk County has set up a hotline to help drivers who were forced to abandon their cars during the snowstorm. Motorists can call 631-775-2001 for information on the location of their vehicles.
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