A predicted little flutter of a storm that had been expected early in the week to drop a casual two to six inches on Long Island ended up morphing into one of the biggest single-day blizzards in recent history. But while the storm caught many by surprise, Glen Cove was prepared.
“We had a crew of 14 doing prep work starting at 3 a.m.” on Thursday, said DPW Chief Manny Grella, chief of the city’s Department of Public Works. “We went into full plow mode at 6 a.m. and didn’t finish our shift till nearly midnight.”
There were no injuries. But it was back-breaking work, “really grueling,” according to Grella. Conditions of near-zero visibility hampered initial efforts as the crews struggled to keep abreast of the storm, he said.
“We made three complete passes throughout the city, and when we got to the end of the first pass, it looked like we hadn’t even been there at all,” he said. But by midnight, “everything was clear.” Grella’s crews have been working normal shifts since Friday.
The Glen Cove Police Department reported a quiet day, according to Detective Lt. John Nagle, with the city reporting no criminal complaints during the actual storm and no traffic issues. “We went out on eight calls” throughout the day, he said, most of which were “chest pains, health issues. Mostly, people stayed inside.”
He cautioned that the aftermath of a storm like last week’s is often worse than the storm itself, and the city did log two criminal complaints the following day.
Glen Cove, like other parts of Long Island, was also protected by a bigger entity — the U.S. Coast Guard.
“We started monitoring the weather systems on Wednesday as forecasts started coming in,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Shannon Andrew. “Our main concern in a storm of this magnitude is to make sure heating supplies get through.”
More than 90 percent of all the heating oil consumed in the Northeast is delivered by barge, she explained, so “our main concern is to monitor the ice build-up.” The Coast Guard had three vessels on call during the storm – one 65-foot harbor tug and two 49-foot BUSLs (buoy utility stern-loading), which the Coast Guard deployed provisionally as small ice-breakers.
The Coast Guard received no distress calls during the storm, despite monitoring a coverage range from Canada to New Jersey. “We sent out warnings about the severity of the storm, and people must’ve listened and stayed in port or inside,” Andrew said.
Churches and homeless shelters provided round-the-clock service, including the shelter at Glen Cove’s First Presbyterian Church and the INN (Interfaith Nutrition Network) at First Baptist Church.
“We’ve been serving hot meals and providing shelter for the past 21 years, said Cantor Gustavo Gitlin, who heads the project at First Presbyterian. Volunteers from many different local churches and synagogues bring food for as many as 25 guests, but where the shelter is normally shuttered during daytime hours, “we decided to keep it open,” he said.
Although the shelter itself can only provide space for two dozen, “we will find shelter for anyone who comes to our door,” he said. “No one should have to sleep in the cold.”
The shelter doesn’t need food or sleeping bags at this time, he said, but the men do need winter boots.
The storm itself was nearly twice as severe as the first major blizzard of 2017, according to Faye Morrone, of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. “The first major storm of 2017 hit the first weekend in January,” leaving nearly 10 inches on the ground. Last week’s blizzard deposited 16 inches of snow in less than 24 hours on the North Shore. And this winter is proving to be one of the coldest on recent record. “By this time last year, Long Island had had 14.5 inches of snow,” said Morrone. The figure so far this winter is an even 22 inches.
An average winter’s snowfall on the North Shore usually amounts to about two feet, according to Morrone. With 22 inches of snow and counting, this year seems set to break that mark. Asked about global warming she said, “It’s impossible to speculate about cases based on a single event.”
At least in Glen Cove the clean-up is going well. “We had no downed trees or power lines,” Grella said. “Most of it was done by close of business on Friday.” And except in the East Island area, the city experienced no flooding.
The economic cost of the storm is more difficult to know. A severe, prolonged winter, such as the region experienced in 2014, can cause the entire economy to contract, according to a report in Fortune magazine. While a local event can cost individual homeowners, a number of local insurance brokers refused even to speculate based on past experience, nor would any speak for the record.
It is the local impact that is of greatest interest to most people, and in that respect at least, Glen Cove appears to have come through better than many.