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Quick Storm, Better Preparations Bring Faster Cleanup

Towns, county and LIRR officials agreed Wednesday storm's characteristics and preparations led to an easier morning commute.

Hauppauge and surrounding Long Island areas received only slightly less snow than the post Christmas blizzard on Wednesday, but a quicker response has cleared the way for morning commuters. 

Town of Islip, Suffolk County and LIRR officials agreed the snowstorm's quick movement, short duration and emergency preparations helped shorten the time it took to clear the roads and resume business. Whereas the Dec. 26 blizzard paralyzed local transportation for days, schools and businesses are already getting back their normal routines.

"The blizzard was a more elongated storm that presented more challenges overall," said Islip Town Supervisor Phil Nolan. "But our crews during this storm face some difficult conditions for a couple of hours after 2 a.m. What helped us was most of the storm stopped falling by 7 a.m. [on Wednesday]." 

Nolan said Islip's snow removal crews were fully operational by midnight on Wednesday. Workers used approximately 275 pieces of equipment throughout the night to clear the town's 1,100 miles of roadways by Wednesday morning, according to Nolan. Once the plowing was complete, out came the salters and sanders to further improve road conditions.

LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said the railroad was making preparations for the worst, but received help from the actions of local residents. 

"We were anticipating the possibility as we did in December that we might have to suspend service on multiple branches or the whole system once the snow go into the 10 - 13 inch level. It's a safety issue," Arena said. 

LIRR called in approximately 600 additional employees to battle the overnight storm that in addition to scheduled crews put between 800 and 1,000 people on its lines, Arena said, working to keep the third rail clear and service on schedule.

Despite these actions, LIRR ran on a reduced service Wednesday as it experienced delays on some of its branches. In the afternoon, it was, affecting Smithtown station. 

"Obviously, we asked people to stay home if they could, and a lot of people did. Our customer count indicates as much as 75 percent of our normal commuters stayed home," Arena said. 

Minor delays continued to plague this morning's train operations. LIRR is reporting all service east of Ronkonkoma on the Ronkonkoma has been replaced by buses due to high drifts. 

"Overall, we think this storm was handled very, very well. The County Executive leaned forward a bit and was interested in making sure we had the right crews in place," said Joe Williams, Suffolk County's commissioner of Emergency Rescue and Fire Services. 

County Executive Steve Levy declared a snow emergency by 5 a.m. Wednesday, giving the county the ability to close roads if necessary for the sake of public safety. 

Williams said as of Wednesday mid-day there were more than 60 accidents in Suffolk County and 40 by the Sheriff's department. Those numbers did not include a handful of accidents after the storm passed in the afternoon, including the most serious accident of the day - a multiple car accident on the Long Island Expressway in Ronkonkoma. 

Williams, who oversees the coordination of snowplowing with the county and various towns, said another key factor in clearing roads were the lower winds, as drifting snow didn't recover roadways. 

One major problem remained as , such as the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway despite advanced forecast of the storm, according to Williams. While he did not have exact numbers available, he said numbers were down but enough to keep tow trucks busy. 

Patch's Greg Sleter contributed information to this story. 

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