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Dec 22, 2009 1:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Blizzard snarls life on the East End

Dec 22, 2009 1:45 PM

The icy wallop that slapped the Northeast into the throes of winter overnight on Saturday stranded people across the region in their homes—and on trains and buses—and hobbled movement on the East End early in the holiday week.

Snowfall totals, ranging from 20 inches to 26 inches on the East End, set records in many places for the month of December and approached all-time records.

Snow fell at up to 5 inches per hour at times on Saturday night, wreaking havoc on efforts to keep roadways cleared as deep, heavy snow stranded even the snowplows. Winds in the wake of the storm gusted to more than 30 mph on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, further frustrating efforts to get main thoroughfares open as drifting snow, sometimes several feet deep, re-covered cleared roads.

Dozens of minor car accidents were reported by police and driveways and roadsides were dotted with stranded vehicles. A Long Island Rail Road train was stranded by the snow in western Suffolk County, and a Hampton Jitney bus that left New York City at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday didn’t reach Southampton until after 6 a.m. on Sunday.

The supervisors of both South Fork towns declared a snow emergency on Saturday night, prohibiting non-emergency traffic from roadways and freeing town crews to clear even private and unimproved roads so that ambulances could reach houses if needed—a process that continued into Tuesday. The emergency declaration limiting road travel was lifted in Southampton on Sunday afternoon and in East Hampton on Monday morning.

Highway crews in the East End towns worked around the clock from Saturday afternoon until well into the night on Sunday and picked up again before dawn on Monday to clear the main roads and get as many small residential streets as possible open for emergency vehicles.

“This was the worst I’ve seen it in 20 years,” said Southampton Town Superintendent of Highways Bill Masterson on Monday, just days before he was set to leave office after two decades. “Yesterday, we had trucks stuck all over the place. The amount of snow was a total whiteout, so you couldn’t seen the road. You’d think you’re on the road, and all of a sudden you’re in a ditch. And it was heavy, wet snow. The plows can only push just so much, then they just slide sideways into the ditch.”

Mr. Masterson said in many places his crews had to opt for using large excavating equipment to just scoop the snow up and dump it alongside roads, rather than try and push it out of the way. He said 60 town employees and more than 20 private contractors worked from 1 p.m. on Saturday until 9 p.m. on Sunday night, with only short breaks in the interim.

“I’m proud of my guys,” he said. “They don’t complain—they just go to work.”

One of those contractors, Steven Mezynieski, said one of his heavy excavating crews had spent the entire night on Saturday into Sunday morning just helping snowplow drivers get unstuck so they could continue working. The storm posed particular difficulties for the plow crews, which he said he had not experienced before.

“The snow was so heavy and so thick, it’s the first time I’ve seen a snowstorm where it came down so fast and there was that much wind. The drifts, as soon as you’d clear a road it was covered again. We were actually clearing the highway with a payloader,” he said.

Richard Hendrickson, a National Weather Service weather observer for the last 80 years, said the 25.3-inch snowfall he recorded at his house in Bridgehampton was the most he’d ever gotten from a single weather event in the month of December, and the most ever in a 24-hour period. A January blizzard in 1996 left a bit more at his home, 29 inches, but fell over a longer period. Mr. Hendrickson noted that snowfall totals can vary by up to several inches over a matter of only a few miles as isolated bands of heavy snow move through an area.

At the National Weather Service regional headquarters in western Suffolk County, the 24 inches of snow that fell was a modern record.

Meteorologist John Murray of the NWS described the storm as an intensifying low that developed over the Southeast and then moved offshore from the Carolinas, capturing ocean moisture that resulted in heavy snowfall along its northwestern edge. The heaviest snowfalls came in coastal New Jersey and eastern Long Island as the storm continued to intensify on Saturday and throughout Sunday before finally moving far enough offshore that its weather effects were no longer reaching land.

Roadways remained slippery and, in many cases, impassable throughout Sunday and into Monday. Late on Monday night, most municipalities still had their crews on the clock, scraping away at snow-covered roads and sidewalks.

Over in Westhampton Beach, George Gordon, superintendent of the village’s Department of Public Works, said Highway Department workers would finish plowing the roads on Monday before focusing on the sidewalks. He said that most crew members worked through Saturday night, and that about 10 men have been working 12- to 14-hour shifts since then to “catch up with the snow.”

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A UPS guy just came to my door with no truck in sight. When I asked him where it was, he said 40 of their trucks got stuck yesterday so they are taking no chances today. They are parking their trucks out on the streets and hoofing it to each door, poor guys. My house is easily 600' from the road. Last I saw of him he was jogging back down our drive.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Dec 22, 09 11:51 AM
Worst snow removal effort i have ever seen.

Grade: F-
By slamminsammy (104), East Moriches on Dec 22, 09 12:20 PM
By KAZ (26), SOUTHAMPTON on Dec 22, 09 12:51 PM
Now I feel important. My street was great. In fact every street I took to work yesterday was great. I must be surrounded by important people.

Pretty good for a record snow fall.

Look at the kids in the picture above and you can't help but smile. Those kids are enjoying this weather event.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Dec 22, 09 2:00 PM
I must be un-important. My road didn't get plowed until 3 PM today (Tuesday). Quogue, in general, was abysmal with the exception of Montauk Hwy and Jessup Avenue.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Dec 22, 09 7:35 PM

By KAZ (26), SOUTHAMPTON on Dec 22, 09 12:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank You!! I always forget this. I am gonna get those babies,
By MaryB (19), East Hampton on Dec 22, 09 5:12 PM
Aren't snow chains illegal here? If not, I'm buying some too.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Dec 22, 09 7:38 PM
Kenya Native, either you really cannot control yourself, or someone behiind the scenes here really does have it in for you!
By Frank Wheeler (1766), Northampton on Dec 22, 09 1:43 PM
See what happens when the town board messes with the employees liveyhood.they can make you look bad or good your choice.i just saw a state snow plow on flanders road plowing a private drive thats a no no
By asurest (117), easthampton on Dec 22, 09 2:08 PM
Maybe the state snow plow can come plow Noyac Road
By MD (17), Southampton on Dec 22, 09 4:23 PM
Well, Noyac Road IS a county road, they should be plowing it.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Dec 22, 09 9:23 PM
The UPS guy just left my package in the snow on the street by my entrance and ran. Glad I noticed it
By joe hampton (3043), south hampton on Dec 22, 09 5:32 PM
I am going to paint my truck like the ups guys so i can park anywhere i like and not get tickets.
By asurest (117), easthampton on Dec 22, 09 5:54 PM
I wonder if they deem Kenya native inappropriate because of the comment under the picture. Love it
By razza5350 (1893), East Hampton on Dec 22, 09 8:16 PM
The state contractors did a terrific job on 27. Clear sailing from East Hampton all the way to Flanders Road (and beyond, I presume). However, from what I've seen, East Hampton Town did a lousy job. And now the snow the town failed to plow well enough is turning into three inches of solid ice.
By easthamptoner (33), easy hampton on Dec 22, 09 8:20 PM
Wasn't there another article about the storm with about 100 comments? Can't find it in 'All Headlines', 'Most Read', or 'Most Commented'. The article where you could upload your snow photos.

Anyway, no need to plow my [public, improved] road. Wednesday AM and still no plow or salt.

Not to worry, the neighbors each had their driveways plowed and we connected our "paths" so we have one lane to travel.

I dumped 100 lbs of salt on the hill to get some poor guy unstuck, ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Dec 23, 09 6:49 AM
That story is linked to this story under "Related Stories."

To upload your photos, visit this link:
By BOReilly (131), 27east Web Editor on Dec 23, 09 1:01 PM
Gone are the days when you would see armies of trucks busily clearing the roads . Worst effort I have ever seen .
By AndersEn (141), Southampton on Dec 23, 09 7:16 AM
Does Kenya Native ever post anything that isn't bleeped? This is a about snow - for crying out loud.

I think it was a great job in both towns. 26 to 27 inches people, breaking records and you all got out in two days, one of those days was a Sunday. Everybody take a chill pill !!!!

Merry Christmas to all - and Bah Humbug to all you cranky ones.
By Waincott Resident (42), Wainscott on Dec 23, 09 4:20 PM
3 members liked this comment
This was obviously written by someone who didn't miss work on monday (36 hours after the storm) due to plows not able, or willing, to get to their road in a timely fashion. I would've paid a cab the sixty dollars to take me to and from work, but the roads were still too bad for the cabs to be out running.

I also noticed that on wednesday only two schools on long island had delays or cancels- hampton bays public schools and religious classes in southampton. There is a feather in the highway ...more
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Dec 25, 09 12:47 AM
You know, 2 + feet of snow just doesn't go away easily. Everybody calm down.
The real F grade here is for the Post office. My street is plowed, my mailbox dug out, and no mail delivery since last Saturday...
By bettyboo (32), Westhampton on Dec 23, 09 8:32 PM
I think that the Hwy dept did the best they could with what happened. I dont know about the rest of the town but the Noyac and North Sea crews work very hard all the time. There is simply to much to do and not enough of the them. Now that leadership is changing perhaps the hwy dept will run more efficiently with less favoritism. A purge has been a long time coming. The town has grown and the hwy dept needs to grow with it.
By North Sea Citizen (470), North Sea on Dec 24, 09 7:07 AM
the people who are in charge of plowing snow in the town of huntington where i work and those in south hampton need to go back to snow plowing school what as--ty job tax money well spent
By frizz50 (2), huntington on Dec 24, 09 7:14 AM
The hardest hit roads (Scuttlehole Rd. in Water Mill and Bridgehampton for instance) did NOT have snow fencing put in the fields this year, or in the last few years as I recall.

It may be time to re-consider whether the cost savings of NOT doing the fencing is a real savings, or in the case of this year, an illusion. Add up the overtime pay for plowing so much (plus payloaders having to be used in many places), and I bet the excessive costs would pay for a couple of years of putting the ...more
By PBR (4841), Southampton on Dec 24, 09 10:37 AM
We returned from a trip on Mon. evening and on our way home got a call from my sister in Hampton Bays telling us we would not be able to access our home because she found our street Westbury Rd had not been plowed and the snow from Bay Ave had been pushed up to waist high at the entrance to Westbury Ave from both ends. We stayed in a hotel up island Mon.night , $139.00, thank you very much. On tuesday we found that the road was plowed monday night after 10:00pm. My driveway was impassable, plows ...more
By mhpc (1), Hampton Bays on Dec 24, 09 12:29 PM
What ever happened to all those people who despise government, except when they need it? All I hear are people complaining that the snow wasn't cleared RIGHT NOW or perfectly.
With all the day laborers around, can't you find a few guys with some shovels to clear your driveway, even if your kids won't? Get a shovel.
By sansouci (9), Southampton on Dec 25, 09 5:56 PM
sansouci ... I'm trying to find any reference to the clearing of any driveway (or kids for that matter). I came up empty . This is a story about the roads . Please try to stick to the content of the story . Thank You .
... also , complaining isn't neccesarily showing love for the gov't .
By AndersEn (141), Southampton on Dec 25, 09 10:46 PM
As of yesterday at 2:30 PM, Cooper Rd. in North Sea still had 6+ inches of snow and had been plowed , poorly, 1 time, thank God for the rain!
By bigfresh (3295), north sea on Dec 26, 09 11:22 AM
Yrs ago there used to be 12 men to a barn and 6 barns in the Town of Southampton. As officials changed in the town board, layoffs occured to save money in the budget, highway employees were decreased to 6-8 men per barn. Decrease in man power and an increase in population and added roads (subdivisions and new roads) just cause a slow down in efficiency of snow removal. It is not the fault of the employees that they are understaffed when it comes to clearing the roads of as much snow as we had. ...more
By NorthSeaNative (34), Southampton on Dec 26, 09 3:08 PM
Thank you NorthSeaNative for the informative post, and thank you to the Highway Dept. for clearing the roads within the limits of their human endurance, manpower staffing, and equipment limitations. Well done!

If the wood in the snow fences was causing bacterial/disease problems for the farmers, then perhaps we should switch to a different material, because the fencing to the north of the problem roads sure did alleviate the drifting IMO.

Perhaps the new Town Board under the leadership ...more
By PBR (4841), Southampton on Dec 26, 09 3:52 PM
I could only wish that all those people complaining about the plowing would put their butts in the drivers seat for 5 or 6 hours of plowing. This way, they would know how much of a beating your body and mind takes trying to clear this much snow with the wind conditions that were present. After plowing all night long in white out just to keep the main roads open, some of these complainers would be begging to go to bed for awhile. In addition to the white out, these guys need to deal with morons who ...more
By Native Westhamptonite (14), Westhampton on Dec 29, 09 4:18 PM
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