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New York drivers spent fearful, chilly night stranded in snow

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The scenes came almost exactly two years after a blizzard marooned at least 1,500 cars and buses on Chicago's iconic Lake Shore Drive, leaving hundreds of people shivering in their vehicles for as long as 12 hours and questioning why the city didn't close the crucial thoroughfare earlier.

Cuomo and other officials were similarly asked why they didn't act to shut down major highways in Long Island in advance of the storm, especially given the sprawling area's reputation for gridlock. The expressway is often called "the world's longest parking lot."

"The snow just swallowed them up. It came down so hard and so fast," explained Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone.

"That's not an easy call," added Cuomo, who noted that people wanted to get home and that officials had warned them to take precautions because the worst of the snow could start by the evening rush hour. Flashing highway signs underscored the message ahead of time: "Heavy Snow Expected. Avoid PM Travel!"

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

But many workers didn't have the option of taking off early Friday, Arena noted. The 41-year-old sales account manager headed home from an optical supply business in Ronkonkoma around 4 p.m. She soon found her SUV stuck along a road in nearby Farmingville.

"Even though we would dig ourselves out and push forward, the snow kept piling, and therefore we all got stuck, all of us," she recalled later at Brookhaven Town Hall, where several dozen stranded motorists were taken after being rescued. Many others opted to stay with their cars.

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