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Shelter Island weathers the storm

LEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO | Near white out conditions on Bridge Street at the height of Saturday's blizzard,

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO | Near white out conditions on Bridge Street at the height of Saturday’s blizzard.

Mother Nature was kind to the Island last weekend.

With snow accumulation totals anywhere from 10 inches to a foot, “We didn’t get hammered like they did farther west,” Highway Department Superintendent Jay Card Jr. said.

Nevertheless, highway crews were out early Saturday, worked through the night and were back on the streets Sunday morning mopping up. All roads were passable early on during the blizzard for first responders, a good thing since they had little difficulty getting to a house fire on Penny’s Path Saturday afternoon.

Coastal flooding was not an issue, even with the conjunction of a full moon, high tides and strong winds, Mr. Card said. “Water came across some roads but no more than during other flood high tides,” he added.

A piston on a truck — used to raise and lower the plow — “exploded” during the storm, disabling the plow, Mr. Card said. “The guys got it back to the shop, re-welded it and got it back on the road.”

The fire was the only major incident of the weekend, according to Police Chief Jim Read, who is the Island’s emergency management coordinator. A meeting was held around noon Saturday with “police, fire, ambulance, highway and the town supervisor to make sure everyone was clicking,” the chief said. “Everyone was on a roll throughout the storm.”

There were no power outages to speak of, just a brief one Saturday afternoon that was not extensive or long lasting. The utility had a crew on the Island by Friday and stayed for the duration. “PSEG has been good by us,” the chief said. “They were great.”

At about 2 p.m. the town issued a “CodeREd” alert, with Supervisor Jim Dougherty warning residents to stay off the roads for their own safety and not to block Highway Department crews.

CodeRed is a web-based emergency notification service that contacts residents with important information and directions through multiple platforms, including voicemail, texts, email, social media and a mobile alert app.

Winter storms are in some ways even more of a concern for emergency managers than hurricanes, Chief Read said. If electricity is lost for an extended period of time during warm weather, “we can get you water and get to you to help,” the chief said. But no heat during sub-freezing temperatures for several days can be a catastrophe.

Members of the emergency management team agreed that all’s well that ends well.

“We can handle a storm like this without any problems,” Mr. Card said. “The guys are on an automatic go.”