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Slow, frustrating return to life in Suffolk County

February 13, 2013 9:15:54 AM PST
Life is slowly getting back to normal in Suffolk County on Long Island, where some places got up to 30 inches of snow.

Major highways are open again and the Long Island Rail Road began operating on a regular weekday schedule on all 11 branches with the Tuesday morning rush hour.

Still, problems remain. The LIRR cautions that some platforms and walkways may be slippery. Parking may be a problem at some LIRR stations in Suffolk that have not been yet been plowed. The railroad advises that customers have someone drop them off rather than drive to the station.

Police evacuated one of the area's biggest malls on Monday because of major roof leaks. The Smith Haven Mall in Suffolk County was cleared by 4 p.m. Monday after significant leaks were detected in more than two dozen stores. Police worried the roof could collapse.

Smithtown Building Department Director John Bongino said that in one of the stores it looked "almost as if there was an open ceiling and it was raining." The mall reopened on Tuesday afternoon.

Most major highways were cleared by Monday, but the volume of snow was just too much to handle on many secondary roads and so plowing continues.

People in Selden gave up waiting any longer for the plows, picking up their own shovels and using their own snow blowers to clear their street.

"I'm really annoyed. I pay taxes and I'm not getting any of the services I pay for and they just keep going up and up. I'm losing a day's pay of work today," Cathy Agtuca said.

Eyewitness News decided to stop by the neighborhoods of the some of the councilmen for the town of Brookhaven. Every home we visited, including that of the supervisor, the tax collector and a few others, had clear roads.

There's no doubt that all the streets are getting better around Long Island, which made people on some streets wonder why is it taking so long to get to them?

"When we do get a hold of somebody, they say the plows are out. They have no idea what sector they're in. It's frustrating. You can't get to work. I had to miss two days of work and I'm parked a mile away," Michael Escobar of Selden said.

Some motorists vented their anger at Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not acting more quickly to shut down major roads, as other governors did, and for not plowing more aggressively. Hundreds of cars became stuck on the Long Island Expressway on Friday night and early Saturday morning,

"There were cars scattered all over the place. They should have just told people in the morning, 'Don't bother going in because we're going to close the roads by 3 o'clock.' I think Boston and Connecticut had the right idea telling everybody to stay off the roads," said George Kiriakos, an investment consultant from Bohemia, N.Y.

Cuomo has defended his handling of the crisis and said that more than one-third of all the state's snow-removal equipment had been sent to the area. He said he also wanted to allow people the chance to get home from work.

"People need to act responsibly in these situations," the governor said.

The Cuomo administration on Monday said that Suffolk County made the call to close the LIE and that the county was responsible for clearing what it describes as a federal highway.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he wouldn't comment.

In all, the LIE was kept closed for 27 hours for snow removal, reopening early Monday morning. But even after it reopened, state transportation vehicles were still moving snow from isolated sections of the highway, and entrance and exit ramps remained a slushy mix at midday. Drivers also complained of hard-packed, 6-inch-deep snow and ice in places, creating ice "potholes" that sent slammed vehicles into pockets of blacktop. Fender-benders were seen on several roads during Monday's commute, including one car that flipped over on the LIE.

Despite a steady rain that fell throughout the morning rush hour -ordinarily an ingredient that snarls LIE traffic on the best of days - the roadway was not extraordinarily crowded Monday. Some noted that because 29 local school districts on Long Island were still closed Monday, many people likely opted not to go to work.

Samantha Cuomo - no relation to the governor - complained that treacherous conditions still existed throughout the county. The manager of an adult group home in Miller Place, Cuomo said her typical 40-minute commute was taking her two hours in the storm's aftermath.

"It's horrible, it's an absolute mess," she said. "These roads should be cleared at least once. That's what people pay tax money for. There's no preparation. They knew days prior so I feel like there's no excuse for it."

Anthony Abruzzo, of Wading River, was inclined to give officials a pass.

"I don't think X amount of laws can keep some people from being idiots," he said. "It's Long Island. People do what they want anyway."

Some information from The Associated Press

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