NBC New York
The reopening of the Long Island Expressway was delayed Sunday as crews continue to try and clear the highway. Gus Rosendale reports.
The massive Northeast storm that battered Long Island with 2 ½ feet of snow, knocked out power to thousands, made roofs fall in and stranded hundreds of drivers, prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ask other towns and cities to send plows to help dig out the part of the state hit the hardest by far.
More than a third of all the state's snow-removal equipment was sent to the area, Cuomo said. Almost 1,000 personnel and a total of close to 700 pieces of equipment, including more than 400 plow trucks and hundreds of snowblowers, trailers, backhoes and tow trucks, are boosting local recovery efforts.
The governor says it's one of the largest mobilizations after a winter blizzard in the state's history.
"The massive amount of snow left behind effectively shut down the entire region,'' he said.
The storm forced drivers to abandon their vehicles and even snowplows got stuck, leading authorities to close major highways to all but emergency vehicles. Emergency workers had to use snowmobiles to try to reach stranded motorists.
A 27-mile stretch of the Long Island Expressway from Exit 57 in Islandia to Exit 73 in Riverhead was closed most of Sunday in both directions, so highway crews can complete the job of snow removal. At 9 p.m., a Suffolk County police spokeswoman said the closed sections of the expressway were slowly starting to reopen.
A police spokeswoman for Suffolk County said Sunday that all known abandoned vehicles were searched, and no one needing medical help was found.
While no deaths were reported among stranded drivers, a 58-year-old man died after suffering a medical problem while clearing snow off his car at his mother's Long Island apartment complex, Suffolk County police and a witness said. The man was found near his still-running car around 5 p.m. Saturday, after his mother became concerned that he had left hours before to run to the store for her and hadn't returned, said Dennis Castillo, a worker at the complex, in Selden.
In New York City, the snow accumulation in Central Park was 11 inches and 12 at LaGuardia Airport.
By contrast, in Suffolk County, Upton had 30 inches of snow. Several other towns topped 2 feet: Setauket, Smithtown, Port Jefferson, Mount Sinai, Islip, Huntington and Commack.
Weighed down by the snow, roofs collapsed at a bowling alley and a home in Suffolk County, according to police and a news report.
No one was in AMF Smithtown Lanes when part of the bowling center's roof caved in around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, police said. At the home, in Selden, a woman ran out in her slippers to get to safety, while her husband was already outside, shoveling snow, according to reports.
In New York City, the mayor had prepared residents for the storm with all hands on deck: More than 2,200 vehicles plowed and salted streets overnight Saturday, clearing every major thoroughfare at least once, and even most secondary streets.
"We're in great shape. We're lucky," Mayor Bloomberg told plow workers at a sanitation garage in Queens. "We've dodged a bullet."
Communities in the outer boroughs still suffering from the aftermath of Sandy were mostly spared this time.
Cleanup was also under way on the the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.
Service was restored on two of Metro-North's three lines, said Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for the MTA. Service on the third line, which runs between New York City and New Haven, Conn., was still out north of Stamford, Conn. On the LIRR, service was mostly restored except on the eastern parts of Long Island.
"A lot of progress has been made,'' Arena said. "We're certainly hopeful for providing more service for Monday morning.''
Almost 50,000 customers lost electricity on Long Island during the weekend's snowstorm. The Long Island Power Authority was reporting about 2,400 customers were still without power by Sunday afternoon.
The rapid pace of restoration was a far cry from Sandy in late October, but officials pointed out that the storms were different, as were the scale of the outages. Sandy left 1.1 million customers in the dark.
A spokeswoman for National Grid, which is handling the restoration work, said some things had been done differently to allow for as quick a restoration as possible, like getting workers from off of Long Island in place before the storm hit to be able to help out.
"That was a huge improvement in terms of restoration,'' Wendy Ladd said. She said 600 workers had been brought in from elsewhere to supplement the 400 workers on Long Island.
Matthew Cordaro, current chairman of the LIPA Oversight Committee for the Suffolk County Legislature, said there was no comparison between the weather events.
"Snow generally doesn't pose any significant threat to the system. So no, I'm not surprised at the outcome. I don't think they did exceptionally well for the nature of the storm -- average at best,'' he said.