Storm’s worst belts Long Island

Associated Press photo by Richard Drew -- Fred Graham cross country skis in New York's Central Park on Saturday. By 8 a.m. Saturday, snow was 11.4 inches deep in Centraol Park.
Associated Press photo by Richard Drew -- Fred Graham cross country skis in New York's Central Park on Saturday. By 8 a.m. Saturday, snow was 11.4 inches deep in Centraol Park.

The massive Northeast storm that battered Long Island with 2½ feet of snow, knocked out power to thousands and stranded hundreds of motorists on its highways prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ask other towns and cities Saturday to send plows to help dig out the part of the state hit the hardest by far.

Drivers abandoned their vehicles on Long Island and even snowplows got stuck, leading authorities to close major highways to all but emergency vehicles. Emergency workers had to use snowmobiles to try to reach stranded motorists.

While no deaths were reported among stranded drivers, a 58-year-old man died after suffering a medical problem while clearing snow off his car at his mother’s Long Island apartment complex, Suffolk County police and a witness said. The man was found near his still-running car around 5 p.m., after his mother became concerned that he had left hours before to run to the store for her and hadn’t returned, said Dennis Castillo, a worker at the complex, in Selden.

In New York City, the snow accumulation in Central Park was 11.4 inches and 12.1 at LaGuardia Airport. Meteorologist David Stark said the city got more sleet rather than snow, which suppressed the snowfall totals.

By contrast, in Suffolk County on Long Island, Upton had 30.3 inches of snow, Stark said. Several other towns topped 2 feet: Setauket, Smithtown, Port Jefferson, Mount Sinai, Islip, Huntington and Commack.

In Nassau, Wantagh reported 11 inches.

In New York City, the mayor had prepared residents for the storm with all hands on deck: More than 2,200 vehicles plowed and salted streets overnight, clearing every major thoroughfare at least once, and even most secondary streets.

Traffic flowed easily.

“We’re in great shape. We’re lucky,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told plow workers at a sanitation garage in Queens. “We’ve dodged a bullet.”

“It’s not that bad,” said carpenter Kevin Byrne, as he dug his car out of its Manhattan parking spot. “It’s not as bad as everybody said it was going to be.”

But he said he left his shovel at home.

“I’m using a scraper to shovel out, which is not good,” he said.

Communities in the outer boroughs still suffering from the aftermath of last October’s superstorm were mostly spared this time.

In Staten Island’s Midland Beach, frigid gusts blew in from the water, but those who have moved back in to their houses said the wind wasn’t as bad as feared even at the height of the storm. “Not like during Sandy, when the roof was flying away,” said Dmitriy Pilguy.

He chuckled a bit at the pre-storm hype. “It’s only snow,” Pilguy said as he cleared his driveway. “I’m from Russia. I don’t care.”

Bloomberg said police checked on families from Superstorm Sandy who still have no heat but no problems were reported.

Con Edison’s Mike Clendenin said there were just 317 customers without power in the city on Saturday morning, mostly in Brooklyn.

On Long Island, about 40,000 customers lost electricity during the weekend’s snowstorm and 10,000 were still without power on Saturday, mostly in eastern Suffolk County, said Wendy Ladd of the National Grid. Crews were working to restore power.

No failures were reported in northern Westchester County, although some villages there, including Scarsdale and Bronxville, reported more than 20 inches of snow. Rockland County also had no outages, according to Orange & Rockland Electric.

In New York City, some winter fun started after plows cleared main roads and airports were reopened.

Smiling New Yorkers and their children emerged in droves to enjoy the kinds of activities the city rarely sees: skiing, sledding and building snowmen.

From Central Park to Times Square, some were making snow angels while the white stuff stayed almost a foot deep and clean, for a few hours before the salt and urban dirt set in.

By late Saturday morning, when the sun burst out, lineups of baby carriages released toddlers shrieking with glee along with dogs frolicking in the park’s pristine whiteness. Every tree branch was outlined with snow.

New York Fashion Week, one of the most important dates in the industry, got off to a start even as the snow swirled around Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts where the show tents are set up.

Designer Prabal Gurung joked backstage that he’d only be judging his audience from the waist up. He said snow boots were the right choice for slush, but many of his models turned up in heels anyway. Others favored combat boots.

Upstate, 10-12 inches of snow fell in the Hudson Valley and Adirondacks, 8 inches in Buffalo and a foot in Rochester.

Bloomberg said he would make the city’s equipment and manpower available if needed in Long Island, Connecticut and other areas outside the city that got hit far worse than New York.

Associated Press Fashion Writer Samantha Critchell, AP Radio correspondent Julie Walker and AP writers Karen Matthews and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.