A mostly unremarkable winter on Long Island took a sudden turn Thursday when a fast-moving blizzard walloped the region, dumping more than a foot of snow, and causing dozens of accidents on slick roadways.
The winter storm, the first major weather event of 2017, did not cripple the region like past storms but was dangerous enough for officials to urge drivers to avoid roads, which they said were “treacherous.”
Whipping winds and rapidly falling snow spawned whiteout conditions at the storm’s peak—which lasted for several hours. The Long Island Rail Road, which began the day at a disadvantage due to a derailment the previous morning, experienced system-wide delays but benefitted from low ridership. The island’s power grid held up, with just a smattering of power outages throughout the day.
The concern now is that freezing temperatures could make snow-covered roads particularly hazardous. Strong wind gusts will also continue through the evening, leading to episodes of “blowing snow,” the National Weather Service said.
The storm began its jaunt across LI at 4 a.m. It intensified just as the morning commute got underway and steamrolled through the region. The storm did not begin to taper off until about 5 p.m.
In separate morning news conferences, officials from Nassau and Suffolk warned drivers about the potential for hazardous conditions and urged drivers to remain off the road. Still, for some residents, staying off the roads was not an option. Authorities reported dozens of vehicle accidents, including 88 in Nassau County alone.
Meanwhile, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared a state of emergency in response to the powerful storm.
At a press conference in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that Long Island was enduring the worst of the storm—yet again.
“Once again, Nassau, Suffolk, Long Island will bear the brunt of the storm,” he told reporters. “I don’t know what Nassau and Suffolk did to offend Mother Nature but they did something, somewhere along the way because it seems like Mother Nature always packs an especially potent punch for Nassau and Suffolk.”
As snowfall totals began to trickle in, it became clear quite early that Suffolk was suffering the most from the storm’s wrath. By the early afternoon, more than a half-dozen communities recorded more than a foot of snow—a number that was sure to grow as the day progressed.
Authorities did not report any storm-related deaths, but incidents were aplenty. In Nassau, the Long Island Expressway’s westbound lanes were temporarily closed following a multi-car crash involving a tractor trailer.
Officials said there were several cars stuck on LIE exit ramps and disabled motorists across the region.
The governor never had to take the extreme step of closing the LIE, as he had in previous storms.
The storm may have retreated as quick as it came, but crews will likely work through the night, if not the morning, to clean up its remnants.