- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) - While much of the New York City region breathed easier after eluding serious damage from a deadly blizzard, highway crews helped eastern Long Island residents recover Tuesday from a storm that dumped more than two feet of snow in some places and left two people dead.

“This is one of those ‘bad news, good news’ situations,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference at a highway garage on Long Island. “The good news was the entire region was not hit as hard as we were expecting. … The bad news is Suffolk (County) took it right on the chin.”

Cuomo ordered 100 National Guard troops to eastern Long Island to assist with the cleanup. He also redeployed 500 pieces of snow-removal equipment and personnel from upstate and New York City to assist local authorities.

Highway crews were forced to repeatedly clear snowdrifts from the same spots on roads and highways as light snow continued to fall through mid-afternoon. Some communities, particularly on the eastern north fork, saw snow totals approaching 30 inches.

“I’ve been shoveling all morning and then I said, ‘Let me go out and see how it is,’” Noel Bhattacharji, 57, said after grabbing a cup of coffee at a gas station in Port Jefferson.

Suffolk County police reported two fatalities. One was a 17-year-old boy snow-tubing down a street with friends who crashed into a light pole and died. The other was an 83-year-old man with dementia who was found dead in his backyard.

Cuomo noted there were only a handful of car accidents reported on Long Island during the storm - a likely result of a travel ban he imposed in 13 downstate counties. Cuomo lifted the ban Tuesday morning, but several eastern Long Island towns continued to ask drivers to stay off the roads until they could be cleared.

Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone said the low number of highway incidents was “directly attributable to governor’s travel ban.” Cuomo had warned of steep fines for anyone violating the order, but said Tuesday that compliance was overwhelmingly strong and no summons or arrests were necessary.

Both officials said they learned lessons from a near-debacle during a storm two years ago, which found dozens of motorists stuck on roads across eastern Long Island for up to 10 hours or more.

“We’ve seen snowstorms where the roads were left open,” Cuomo recalled. “And we had a really dangerous situation.”

Predictions for widespread power outages failed to materialize across Long Island.

Public Service Electric and Gas Long Island spokesman Jeffrey Weir said the utility had restored power to about 7,000 of its 1.1 million customers throughout the blizzard.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would slowly begin to restore Long Island Rail Road service throughout the day.

James Marino, who coordinates snow removal for five buildings in Manhattan, arrived from Penn Station on one of the first trains exiting New York city on Tuesday.

“I knew going in that I wasn’t going to be able to get out, so I guess it’s good in a sense that they warned everyone.”


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