New York drivers spent fearful, chilly night stranded in snow
Hundreds of drivers in New York and Connecticut spent Friday night stranded on snowy highways. The Long Island Expressway was especially bad, with many drivers waiting 12 hours to be dug out.
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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."Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The blizzard of 2013
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"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.
Richard Ebbrecht left his Brooklyn chiropractic office around 3 p.m. for his home in Middle Island, about 60 miles away, calculating that he could make the drive home before the worst of the blizzard set in. He was wrong.
As the snow came rushing down faster than he'd foreseen, he got stuck six or seven times on the expressway and on other roads. Drivers began helping each other shovel and push, he said, but to no avail. He finally gave up and spent the night in his car on a local thoroughfare, only about two miles from his home.
"I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit," he said.
He walked home around at 8 a.m., leaving his car.
Late-shifters including Wayne Jingo had little choice but to risk it if they wanted to get home. By early afternoon, he'd been stuck in his pickup truck alongside the Long Island Expressway for nearly 12 hours.
He'd left his job around midnight as a postal worker at Kennedy Airport and headed home to Medford, about 50 miles east. He was at an exit in Ronkonkoma — almost home — around 1:45 a.m. when another driver came barreling at him westbound, the wrong way, he said. Jingo swerved to avoid the oncoming car, missed the exit and ended up stuck on the highway's grass shoulder.
He rocked the truck back and forth to try to free it, but it only sank down deeper into the snow and shredded one of his tires. He called 911. A police officer came by at 9:30 a.m. and said he would send a tow truck.