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Shelter Island prepares for weekend blizzard

Police Chief Jim Read, the emergency management coordinator for Shelter Island, said that many of the preparations and precautions needed for severe summer or winter storms are the same.

“But winter storms scare me the most,” the chief said.

He was speaking at a Zoom conference Friday morning of Town department heads, including representatives from the school, Fire Department, Highway Department, Emergency Medical Services, Senior Services, and the North Ferry.

Chief Read noted heavy winter snowfalls impede movement, and power outages are much easier to bear in warm weather, than during days and nights of freezing temperatures.

The latest National Weather Service (NWS) update on the approaching storm is for the East End to experience blizzard conditions, with snow beginning to fall sometime later today, Friday, and continuing until about 7 p.m., Saturday. The NWS has forecast potential snowfall totals of 10 to 16 inches of “powdery snow.”

Temperatures are expected to drop into the low 20s tonight through Saturday, and fall into the low teens on Saturday night.

A real danger for Islanders is a NWS forecast of steady winds from the north at about 30 mph, gusting to 50 to 55 mph, which can topple trees and snap heavy branches, bringing down electric lines and causing power outages.

PSEG will have a storm manager and a tree crew on the Island tonight, Chief Read said. He noted that only emergency calls should be made to the Police Department — 911 — including reporting downed wires. But for a loss of power, call PSEG at 1-800-490-0075.

The heaviest snow is likely to fall around 4 a.m. tomorrow morning, said meteorologist Nelson Vaz with the NWS Long Island office.

“We’ll see the snowfall rates increase out on the East End to two to three inches per hour as you’re going into Saturday morning and afternoon,” the  meteorologist said.

Highway Department Superintendent Brian Sherman said his crews were “ready to go,” and have adequate sand and salt.

The Highway Department will coordinate with Emergency Medical Services, EMT Mark Kanarvogel said, to dispatch plows ahead of an ambulance for emergency calls.

Ferry service should not be impacted by the storm, the chief said. In the event ferry service is shut down and ambulances can’t cross to hospitals, Dr. Joshua Potter of the Medical Center will be on the Island to render assistance for emergencies.

In the event of an extended period without power, the school will serve as an emergency shelter, with the Center Firehouse also opened if needed.

Chief Read noted that the Town will do its best to assist those without power to find shelter with family and friends, as in past weather emergencies, so they won’t have to rely on a public shelter.

Sara Mundy of the Senior Center said calls have been going out to the frail elderly and other vulnerable people.

The Meals on Wheels program is up and running and Senior Center personnel will see approximately 60 people today and ask them what they need, Ms. Mundy said. Drivers will do emergency shopping for those who need supplies, and the Center’s van can take others to stores.

A snow emergency bulletin will be issued by the Town, and Heights residents will be asked to move parked vehicles from Grand Avenue and park on side streets to keep the vital road open for plows and emergency vehicles, said Stella Lagudis, general manager of the Heights Property Owners Corporation.

The FIT Center will be closed tomorrow.

Supervisor Gerry Siller said the Town will keep residents informed through its website — shelterislandtown.us — its Facebook and Instagram accounts, and Chanel 22.