Winter Storm Blankets East End


With more than a half foot of snow on the ground and temperatures hitting single digits, the aftermath of Tuesday’s winter storm included one death, numerous declarations of emergencies and the shutting down of just about every government building.

In Springs, an elderly man was found dead, lying in the snow, near his Locust Drive home early Wednesday morning by a snowplow driver.

According to East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo, the cause of the man’s death was unknown at press time, but town police were working with the Suffolk County medical examiner to investigate.

They say a preliminary investigation indicates his death was not suspicious and no foul play was involved.

According to Tim Morrin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, temperatures dropped to as low as 9 degrees early Wednesday morning.

“And it is minus 10 or minus 15 right now with the wind chill,” he added. “It is dangerously cold. Frostbite will occur if you are out long enough, so be careful sledding out there.”

Mr. Morrin also said that overnight snowfall totals varied throughout the East End, with less snow accumulating in areas east of the Shinnecock Canal than on other parts of the island.

The National Weather Service Spotter Reports, compiled by both professional and amateur weather spotters, reported totals of 10 inches in Hampton Bays, Riverhead and Flanders, and 9.5 inches in Eastport. The hardest-hit parts of Suffolk County were Selden and Babylon, each reporting 14.5 inches, the highest numbers in the state.

Farther east, despite initial warnings from the Weather Service that the snowfall would be heaviest there, about 6 inches of snow at most was unofficially estimated in Springs and Wainscott.

In terms of states of emergency, Suffolk County, as well as Southampton and East Hampton towns, officially declared them for the storm, with offices closed for the day early on Tuesday and all day Wednesday. With about 10 inches of snow throughout areas of the East End, the emergency declaration allowed town highway crews to clear private roads and to make way for emergency vehicles.

All East End schools closed early on Tuesday and most remained so for Wednesday.

Southampton Town Police responded to 25 motor vehicle accidents over the 24-hour period starting at noon Tuesday, according to Sergeant Andrew Ficurilli. All accidents were minor with no serious injuries, he said. In addition, Sgt. Ficurilli said the department responded to 11 other storm-related calls for either disabled vehicles or downed utility wires.

“The town is still working on roads, especially side roads, so if at all possible, we’d ask people to stay off the roads,” he said early Wednesday morning.

East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said his department responded to eight minor car accidents as well, most occurring in the early afternoon on Tuesday.

Chief Sarlo echoed Sgt. Ficurilli’s thoughts, saying that with schools closed, he understood there would be thrill-seekers on sleds and inner tubes alike, but he urged caution, warning drivers to park in places that wouldn’t impede the pathways of the plows.

Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor asked Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to keep the state of emergency in effect until 7 p.m. Wednesday to minimize the amount of traffic on local roads and allow his crews to continue working to clear snow and ice. As of print time, it was unclear if Ms. Throne-Holst had agreed to the request.

Mr. Gregor noted that the extra time was necessary because clearing lightly-traveled roads of hard-packed snow and ice would be difficult if the cold weather persists. He said the town will be spreading a mixture of salt and sand on roads to improve traction and hopefully loosen the ice enough that car traffic will gradually break it into slush that can be plowed off.

“The roads won’t all be black and people should drive accordingly, responsibly,” Mr. Gregor implored. “The sand does provide some traction and the salt will help, but below 19 degrees it’s not as effective.”

Town plows will be plowing private roads as the day goes on and will respond with fire trucks or ambulances to any emergency calls to ensure that rescue vehicles can get through.

Mr. Gregor said that a town plow was involved in an accident on the treacherous roads during the height of the storm Tuesday night. The plow truck hit a dip in the road, Mr. Gregor said, and slid off the pavement, striking a utility pole.

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