NORTH BELLPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — With the snow still coming down fast and heavy in parts of Long Island early Saturday, some motorists found themselves stranded all night in their cars with the Long Island Expressway shut down.
The National Weather Service office in New York City confirmed totals of more than 30 inches in spots.
As a result, the LIE will be closed in both directions, from Exit 57 to Exit 73 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, for snow removal, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.
Plows could not crack the hardpack of snow and ice that was seemingly fused to the roadway. Authorities plan to send heavy duty construction trucks down the road to break up the hardpack.
“They’re gonna 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.
“It is clear this is a storm unlike anything that we have experienced in parts of Suffolk County,” County Executive Steve Bellone said.
At a news conference on Saturday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said nowhere in the state was hit as badly as Suffolk County.
“I want to applaud the first responders who were heroic last night, that there were no fatalities that we know of. God was kind last night because it was a terribly dangerous situation,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo told reporters that having cars on the road during a major storm can make it difficult for emergency responders to do their jobs, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.
“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,” he said.
People who were commuting home Friday evening became stranded as the storm rapidly picked up in intensity, officials said.
“The snow just swallowed them up,” Bellone said on Saturday afternoon. “If you do not need to go out, stay home.”
Cuomo also urged residents all across the area to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to travel.
“We do not need people going on the roads,” he said.
Bellone said towns across the county are dealing with complex, difficult issues in cleaning up from the blizzard.
“I’ve never seen anything like this one,” said Bellone.
Plows are unable to operate normally because of the stranded cars lining many roadways and highways. Cuomo said plows can only go so far before a tow truck has to be called in to remove the disabled cars.
“The weatherman was right on this one,” said Cuomo.
About 130 plows from Nassau County, New York City and other municipalities were headed to Suffolk to help clean up the dozens of inches of snow blanketing parts of the county.
Many motorists apparently did not heed the warnings to stay off the roads, and police had to rescue them.
“We’ve been finding all the disabled motorists’ vehicles and driving them to safe locations,” Suffolk County Police Lt. Daniel Meyer said on Saturday morning.
Police brought the vehicles to diners, hotels, gas stations, and sometimes home if it was close enough.
“The last couple ones we drove home are police cars, got stuck on the people’s side streets, so we had to send somebody to rescue our police officers,” Meyer said.
Suffolk police had to use snowmobiles to rescue stranded drivers on the LIE and Sunrise Highway.
“The National Guard and State Police helped us out. The roads were impassable so we couldn’t get to a lot of the people without the snowmobiles–they proved to be a very valuable asset for us,” Suffolk police spokesman Rich Glanzer told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
Some police officers could not get out of their own driveways to get to work so, when possible, they were picked up and brought to the precincts by the snowmobiles.
“There were police officers that couldn’t get to work so that was a very high priority of ours. Along with rescuing the people that were stuck, we had to get our officers so we were fully staffed,” Glanzer told Hall.
While some drivers were still getting onto the LIE on Saturday morning, Bellone emphasized that the expressway was closed.
“Unless you are an emergency responder, make sure you are not on those roads. There are already enough cars that are stuck on the roads,” Bellone said.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, hours after the blizzard began, deep-packed, snow-covered roads were still clogged with stranded vehicles. In North Bellport, a fire truck actually got stuck in the snow, and firefighters had to dig it out.
“Nobody was getting anywhere, and even though there were plenty of plows out there, the sheer volume of cars that were still stuck on the road from the afternoon when they got caught with the onslaught of snow at sometimes an inch an hour, they were unable to maneuver,” Gusoff said.
Cars were left disabled, in ditches and inside snow drifts.
“It’s pretty bad,” one driver said. “You can’t even see. Your windshield wipers are backed up with accumulation of snow. It’s just really horrible conditions.”
Also on the LIE, paramedics were called out to assist some passengers in a vehicle, but the ambulance got stuck, CBS 2’s Chris Wragge reported.
“Neil,” a volunteer firefighter, said the wind-blown snow made the situation “extremely difficult, because you can’t get the emergency vehicles in our out.”
CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported some drivers were still trying to get onto the expressway, and ended up stranded. Snow had piled up to five feet in some areas, and piles of snow were even seen in the middle of the expressway.
“I have never seen anything like this. I grew up in the Midwest, where everyone talks about how it’s so much worse in the Midwest,” Sanchez said. “I grew up in the Midwest, and I have never seen snow like this – an absolutely unbelievable sight.”
At Exit 59, drivers were on the eastbound side even though it was supposed to be open only to emergency vehicles. But traffic was at a standstill, and a plow had broken down, forcing crews to go at the roads with shovels.
Even plows were getting stranded on the expressway, and some motorists gave up and ended up driving the wrong way on the expressway.
“I saw two state plows that were stuck this morning as I was moving around, and I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Bellone said.
Rescuing motorists and getting them to warming centers proved a challenge, Bellone said.
“We had to rescue a number of people overnight; pull them out of vehicles,” he said. The National Guard had to assist in that mission with snowmobiles, Bellone said.
But some motorists remained in their cars and did not want to leave, he said.
Bellone advised people to stay home and stay off the roads, as crews worked to complete a “very difficult cleanup.”
In Lake Grove near the Smith Haven Mall, at least 60 vehicles were stranded overnight on Route 347, and Nesconset fire officials removed them in the middle of the day.
Some people had suffered hypothermia, while others got frostbite while walking outside in the cold, said Nesconset Third Assistant Fire Chief John Martins.
Two people were taken area hospitals, 1010 WINS’ Gene Michaels reported.
The fire department deployed a GI Brush Truck, which is usually used in fighting brush fires, to transport people who were stuck in the mall parking lot to a command post, and ultimately to a warming center at Nesconset fire headquarters.
“I have never seen anything like this before, and it’s another blow to Long Island after Hurricane Sandy,” Martins said.
One woman in Nesconset said she was stuck in her car all night with ballet flats on and no shoes. Meanwhile, a man was seen driving around frantically in circles, as he said his daughter was in labor and could not get to a hospital on the roads in Lake Grove.
And a Centereach man ended up with a large hole in his roof after the storm brought down a tree and all the surrounding power lines. On top of it, he couldn’t move his car after crews plowed a snow drift in front of it.
Meanwhile in Nassau County, residents still struggling from Superstorm Sandy were still trying to dig out. In Long Beach, accumulations totaled 8 to 10 inches.
All Nassau County roads were open in both directions, but motorists were still advised to stay off, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said. Crews also had to attend early Saturday to a major apartment fire had broken out in Hempstead, prompting response from 13 fire departments.
Long Beach Commissioner of Public Works Jim Lacarrubba said there had been concerns about storm surge as a result of the blizzard, but no flooding was seen overnight.
A blizzard warning remains in effect for the area until 1 p.m. Saturday.
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