County, town and city officials continued to urge people to stay home on Tuesday as a messy nor’easter swept across the South Shore early in the morning, bringing with it a mix of snow, sleet and rain.
Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said that while forecasts were revised to a winter storm warning - an ice/rain mix with three to six inches of accumulation - officials continued to encourage residents to stay off the roads, saying that driving conditions were expected to be treacherous throughout the day and into the evening.
On Monday, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino went to Point Lookout to urge residents to prepare for the storm, saying they could expect heavy winds and coastal flooding, particularly in low-lying areas. That part of the prediction did not change on Tuesday, and some roads were closed in Long Beach due to localized flooding, according to the Long Beach Fire Department.
Santino added that the town had 50,000 tons of rock salt on hand and that crews were out in force since Sunday preparing roads throughout the town with snow-melting brine, and that more than 400 workers were ready to respond with about 300 pieces of equipment.
“Our crews will be out there plowing … to clear the over 1,200 miles of roadway that are in the Town of Hempstead … to make them passable as soon as we possibly can,” he said. “Our Conservation and Waterways crews will be monitoring the coastal erosion.”
Long Beach declared a snow emergency on Monday night as crews prepared for the storm and built temporary dunes along the shoreline. Long Beach schools were closed Tuesday, and the city's snow emergency remained in effect.
“The forecast moved back and forth quite a few times and we seemed to dodge - from a snow perspective at least - a bullet,” Schnirman said on Tuesday. “Our crews have been out since early this morning working on the roads, but there is still freezing rain that may turn back to snow and we’re concerned about it freezing overnight, so we’re continuing to urge residents to stay off the road.”
Department of Public Works crews had 61 pieces of equipment, 300 tons of rock salt and 400 tons of sand and salt mix on hand to respond to the latest storm, and crews began clearing snow emergency routes first so that fire trucks, ambulances, buses and other essential vehicles can easily maneuver through the city.
The emergency routes include West Beech Street, West Park Avenue, the west sides of Maryland Avenue and JJ Evans Boulevard, Shore Road and East Pine Street. Any vehicle parked on the emergency routes during a declared snow emergency will be towed at the owner’s expense, and the city advised residents not to park on bridges in the Canals, saying that it makes it difficult for snow removal vehicles.
“Residents are doing an awesome job of staying off the roads and did not park cars in places where they would get in the way, so we're thankful for that,” Schnirman said, adding that no major emergencies or power outages were reported Tuesday morning.
A coastal flood warning remained in effect through 2 p.m. Tuesday, and moderate coastal flooding was expected during periods of high tide into Tuesday afternoon. In addition to icy roads, Schnirman said there was concern about flooding in the Canals and other areas that tend to flood during periods of high tide.
“Crews are out clearing storm drains,” he said, adding that residents should call (516) 431-7174 to report any issues with storm drains.
City Hall was closed Tuesday and sanitation pickup was cancelled, though regular bus service was running on schedule and officials encouraged residents to use public transportation.
The Long Island Rail Road warned that it might be forced to suspend service if conditions worsened. Special trains were spraying de-icer on the third rail, which energizes the trains. On its Twitter feed, the LIRR was reporting 15- to 20-minute delays on various branches in the early morning. Check the LIRR website for updates.
City Council President Len Torres said that many of his neighbors on West Walnut Street stayed home.
“Our neighbors aren't moving – a lot of the people in The Walks aren’t going to work,” Torres said. “I went shopping for fruit last night and there were long lines and people hoping that they could make it through the storm, and everyone was proactive. There is some fear of flooding because we have the mixture of snow, rain and ice.”
Eastholme Civic Association President Sam Pinto said that while there wasn’t as much snow as residents had expected, the weather was still bad.
“Freezing rain on top of this snow makes it heavy and icy,” he said. “The plows are out and neighbors are shoveling their walks, but this isn’t snowball or snowman conditions.”
From the West End of Long Beach to Point Lookout, a number of businesses said that they were open Tuesday for those nearby residents who didn’t want to drive.
“Hats off to the city workers, they were out plowing all night,” West End resident Terence Mulligan said. “And no matter the weather, Brand’s Deli always delivers.”
Schnirman said that for many residents, the threat of the blizzard was a stark reminder of the city’s vulnerability to major coastal storms, especially after Hurricane Sandy.
“The residents of this city certainly have an element of very understandable post-traumatic stress, and we always have to be cautious to not overhype things,” he said. “One of the major reasons that people did not evacuate during Sandy was because they felt that [Tropical Storm] Irene was overhyped. But you have to err on the side of caution … or the result is that people will stop listening. It’s a very delicate balance.”
He added that the Army Corps of Engineers has begun work on a coastal protection project for the barrier island, and the city is undertaking a number of resiliency measures that include a bulkheading project to protect homes and infrastructure along Reynolds Channel.
“This is why we fight so hard for all the resiliency projects,” he said. “They not only protect us during a Sandy-type of storm, you can really see the difference in protection in a more moderate size storm.”
At press time, PSEG Long Island was reporting scattered outages in Hicksville, Bay Shore and Shirley.
“PSEG Long Island takes storms of this forecasted magnitude seriously, and we proactively prepare and position our restoration workforce so our crews can begin work as soon as the conditions are safe,” said John O’Connell, PSEG-LI's vice president of transmission and distribution. “In addition to scheduling additional PSEG Long Island personnel and contractors to respond to outages, we have arranged for utility crews from other states to provide assistance in restoring customer outages that may result from the storm.”
PSEG-LI offered this advice to homeowners:
* Save PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number: (800) 490-0075.
* Follow PSEG Long Island on Facebook and Twitter for updates before, during and after the storm. Remember, though, that outages cannot be reported through Facebook.
* Downed wires should always be considered live. Do not approach or drive over a downed line and do not touch anything it might be in contact with. If a wire falls on or near your car, stay inside the car, call 911 and do not get out until PSEG Long Island de-energizes the line. If you must get out of the vehicle because it is on fire, jump as far as possible away from the vehicle, with both feet landing on the ground at the same time, and hop or shuffle away.
* Make sure everyone in the family is prepared and knows what to do if there is an emergency. Visit psegliny.com/page.cfm/Home/Safety to learn about safety tips from Sesame Street and YouTube videos.
More as this story develops.