Even plows were mired in the snow or blocked by stuck cars, so emergency workers had to resort to snowmobiles to try to reach motorists. Four-wheel-drive vehicles, tractor-trailers and a couple of ambulances could be seen stranded along the roadway and ramps of the Long Island Expressway. Stuck drivers peeked out from time to time, running their cars intermittently to warm up as they waited for help.
With many still stranded hours after the snow stopped, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged other communities to send plows to help dig out in eastern Long Island, which took the state's hardest hit by far in the massive Northeast storm.
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!"