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Suffolk Focuses Recovery Efforts On Abandoned Cars, Power Outages

Vehicles left behind by drivers delay plowing that would improve roadways, traffic conditions.

Suffolk County's emergency services have put their primary focus on clearing abandoned cars in order to plow major county roadways.

"One of the biggest problems we have, along with municipalities, were people abandoning their cars on the LIE and Route 27. People would leave their cars on the exit ramps and right lane, sometimes middle and center lanes of the LIE," said Joe Williams, commissioner of Suffolk County's Fire Rescue and Emergency Services.

Williams said Suffolk County's Sheriff department noticed during its storm patrols that drivers losing traction and getting stuck out in snowfall and drifts left their vehicles in the roadway, creating obstacles to clearing the snow. Tow trucks had to be called in to tow away vehicles before New York State plow services could begin clearing the roadways.

The Sheriff Department could not be immediately reached for the exact number of vehicles towed away. Those who abandoned a vehicle on major county roadways can contact 631-852-2200 for more information.

Dan Aug, spokesman for County Executive Steve Levy, said the county received 245 storm-related 911 phone calls during the blizzard. Williams said no serious injuries or fatalities as a result of car accidents were reported.

"This is not a dramatically high number, considering the storm," Aug said.

Long Island Rail Road service remained suspended as of 9 p.m. on Monday, reporting abandoned cars on its railroad tracks were responsible for some of the delays in getting up and running.

For those who stayed off the roads and home, Williams said there was concern for nearly 9,000 Suffolk County residents without power at the height of the storm at 2 p.m. 

An emergency shelter was opened at 3 a.m. at Seneca Middle School, part of the Sachem School District in Holbrook,  for residents who needed a safe shelter. Williams said not a single person sought safety at the shelter, which was in the process of being closed at 2:45 p.m.

"If this was a summertime storm, it could have been a Category 3 hurricane," he said. "This was a fast-moving storm but it was a major, major storm."

As of 3:15 p.m., LIPA was reporting nearly 3,525 out of its 617,612 Suffolk customers remained without power.

Brendan Stanton, a spokesman for Levy, said residents are asked to call 631-852-COPS (2677) for all non-emergency situations or Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services 631- 852-490. 

The county's Emergency Operations Center in Yaphank will be open through 8 p.m., Williams said in order to insure those motorists who ventured out have a safe trip home during evening rush hours.

Peter C. Walsh December 28, 2010 at 06:24 PM
Will someone please explain to me the logic behind the decision to park your car on the railroad tracks during a blizzard? Even if the tracks were covered by snow, don't you think the crossing gate apparatus would provide at least one clue that this is not the best place to leave your car?
Jason Molinet December 28, 2010 at 06:29 PM
That's one way to ensure you get towed.

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