Huntington Supervisor Sunday declared an official snow emergency and urged residents to stay off the roads.
The declaration came as highway crews were busy hitting town roads, spreading sand and plowing key streets. As the snow increased in intensity, fewer cars seemed to be on the roads; travel was treacherous.
"We are surprised about the amount of snow predicted which is now 24," William Naughton, highway superintendent, said. "We are prepared nonetheless. This is a very large and long duration storm. We have all of our employees, other town department employees, as well as almost 200 outside contractors fighting this storm. We will be here until the roads are cleared. Unless you have an emergency, please do not drive."
"We expect to have to call in heavy equipment to clear out intersections if the predicted snow amounts are accurate," he said.
The Long Island Power Authority reported that a handful of customers were without power. And the Long Island Rail Road reported that the LIRR may temporarily suspend train service Sunday evening if snow accumulations reach between 10 and 13 inches as predicted. The LIRR plans to run on a holiday schedule for Monday.
Petrone noted that the emergency declaration "allows me to marshal resources, both public and private, to help deal with the storm's expected effects. Among other things, it helps us put all town employees on notice that they might be needed at any time to assist in this effort, which should help in the scheduling of crews to ensure that all workers have adequate rest."
Under a snow emergency, the supervisor has the power to close roads, appropriate necessary equipment from all sources and make necessary purchases without following the usual procedures. The declaration also makes available to the Highway Department more town equipment and personnel to assist in the department's efforts.
The supervisor also opened the town's Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the town's response to the storm. Representatives from several Town departments with key emergency responsibilities were told to report to the center, in the town's general services facility on Pulaski Road in Huntington Station.
"Residents should feel confident that the town will do whatever it takes to ensure, as best as possible, that roads are passable and necessary services are being provided," Supervisor Petrone said. "I hope, however, that people will stay off the roads, stay indoors and enjoy the remainder of the holiday weekend with their families."
Anyone needing to contact the town for emergencies should call 351-3234.
Around town, many supermarkets were packed with last-minute shoppers loading up with milk, bread and other essentials or grabbing snow shovels and ice melt.
Wind was making driving difficult all afternoon as snow continued to come down and be blown about.
The National Weather Service blizzard warning is in place through 6 p.m. Monday. The forecast calls for 11-16 inches of snow across parts of northeastern New Jersey, New York City, southeastern Connecticut and Long Island.
The worst of the storm is expected Sunday night into Monday, with high winds and gusts up to 60 mph.
"This is a very dangerous storm and it is not recommended to be outside during whiteout conditions, when wind gusts could exceed 50 mph during the evening and overnight hours," said Joe Giannotti, a Long Island meteorologist based at MacArthur Airport.
Giannotti expects the middle of Long Island to take the biggest hit. His forecast calls for 16-24 inches across eastern Nassau, western Suffolk and southwestern Connecticut.
Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma said Southwest Airlines and US Airways have canceled all flights after 3 p.m., according to a spokesperson. Currently the airport is open but a handful of incoming and departing flights have already been canceled. The airport's website, flylima.com, includes real-time information on flights.