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The Snows of March on Long Island

While January and February are the heavy-hitter months for snow, March can also pack a punch, with this year delivering four nor’easters in three weeks (though the first was more of a sleety, rainy event), and a fourth on the way.

Here’s a quick look at March snowfall at Long Island MacArthur Airport, where records go back to September of 1963.

Top snowfall from a storm – 18.4 inches

March 21-22, 2018

Tagged by some as #foureaster, this was the fourth in a steady stream of nor’easters that had Long Islanders wondering if they would ever be able to store their shovels.

With 12 to 18 inches in the forecast, and light to moderate snow already falling, area residents were on alert, waiting and waiting all day Wednesday, March 21, for the heavy bands to come along.

And, did they ever come! One produced snowfall rates of 4 to 5 inches an hour, leaving MacArthur Airport digging out from 18.4 inches when all was said and done. Patchogue saw 20.1 inches; Terryville, 19.7; Plainview, 16.

Runner-up – 17 inches

March 21-22, 1967

This storm, Newsday reported, was unexpected and “left Long Island a tangled mess of deep drifts, stalled cars, closed schools in some places and cold, complaining residents.”

Long Islanders – and forecasters – were taken by surprise, as the expectation was for mostly rain.

In Selden, one driver skidded into a snowbank, followed shortly by another, then by a police squad car and then a highway truck, before “a heavy sand truck and two tow trucks arrived and pulled everyone free,” Newsday said.

It showed, too, that some people, given their professions, are better equipped to bounce back than others. One man harnessed his two elephants and got them to pull his car free. That was the elephant trainer with a circus that was opening the next day at the Long Island Arena in Commack.

Third place – 13.5 inches

March 1-2, 2009

“Start with a foot or more of snow,” Newsday reported. “Then throw in bitter cold and gusting winds. And you have a recipe for a highway chief’s nightmare.”

This system came on the heels of “weeks of balmy weather,” Newsday said in a story titled, “Beware the snow of March.”

One Melville woman stocking up on food at Waldbaum’s said, “It’s crazy. I come back from Florida and return home to 14 inches.”

And while March isn’t usually such a snowy time . . .

How March stacks up in average monthly snowfall: chart created with amCharts | amCharts

. . . mid-March is no stranger to a significant storm.

And some Marches have packed a real punch.

Source: Northeast Regional Climate Center

The Long Island Blizzard of 1978: 40 Years of Memories

Forty years ago Tuesday, Nadine Caiati Wahl found herself gazing out the main door of Bloomingdale’s in Garden City, watching heavy snow “coming down and coming down.”

Stranded at the department store with around a dozen colleagues, she saw no cars on the road and no people walking, as the snow, courtesy of the raging Blizzard of ’78, was “too heavy, too thick, too deep.”

“Lots of us remember” that storm, said Wahl, 63, who grew up in Westbury. “How could you forget?”

Right around midnight on Feb. 6, the “first gentle snowflakes began falling,” Newsday reported. Snowfall became more intense, whipped about much of the time by 50 to 60 mph winds, and not letting up until the afternoon of the following day.

When all was said and done, Long Island MacArthur Airport recorded 25.9 inches of snow — to this day the second-highest amount for a storm since records started being kept in 1963, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center. (The top snow-producer was the 2013 storm of Feb. 8 to 9, which dropped 27.8 inches.)

What’s more, Long Islanders, 40 years ago, had just dug out from 17 inches of snow, delivered unexpectedly a little more than two weeks earlier.

Long Island was, indeed, paralyzed, “by the worst winter storm in 30 years and the second in 18 days,” Newsday reported, with roadways buried, motorists trapped, and some “3,000 cars abandoned in a wilderness of unplowed highways.”

“We can keep up with the snow, but the wind is killing us,” one Brookhaven Town plow driver told Newsday, describing it as the worst snow he had ever seen. As for visibility — “there is none,” another driver said.

Travelers were stranded as area airports closed for close to 48 hours. Some 2,000 Long Islanders found shelter in emergency refuge centers, Newsday reported, with others like Wahl stranded at their workplaces.

Three storm-related deaths were reported in Newsday, as well as the collapse of 11 homes as a result of high tides and flooding.

Property damage from tidal flooding and beach erosion amounted to more than $40 million for New York coastal areas, according to a storm report issued at the time by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Coming in the days before The Weather Channel, not to mention texting, Twitter, Instagram posting, and alerts popping up on smartphones, the blizzard appears to be especially evocative for those Long Islanders who rode it out.

At the time, Norm Dvoskin, retired News 12 Long Island meteorologist, was still employed as a product/environmental researcher by Grumman, then the Island’s largest private employer.

Dvoskin said his main recollection was actually the storm’s aftermath.

Living in a large garden apartment complex in Woodbury, he said up until then his neighbors tended to go their separate ways, and “we didn’t even know each other.”

However, as they started digging cars out, some sentiment of shared circumstances must have kicked in.

That’s as someone first brought out some snacks, then food, then wine, he said, as the occasion turned into a party.

“We all had something in common — we were all stuck,” Dvoskin said. Such adversity “brings out the best in people.”

Eric Gabriel, now 51 and living in San Diego, experienced it through the eyes of an 11-year-old, cavorting in the snow of his family’s Ronkonkoma home, and reveling in the “sheer bliss” of days off from school.

“If you’re a kid, the gates to heaven opened,” said Gabriel, a writer and musician.

But he also recognizes the stresses that others went through — his father, who was snowed in alone for three days in his Oceanside office, survived on popcorn and cans of soup. And both his parents fretted, he said, over the worry that their supply of heating oil might run out, and how would they ever get it replenished?

A flock of Long Islanders had posted their own blizzard of ’78 experiences, some as recently as January, on a 2013 blog entry on LongIsland70skid.com, a site Gabriel created to honor the decade he spent on the Island, as well as to create a space where others could reminisce.

That’s where Wahl, now living in Sarasota, Fla., shared her story of hunkering down at Bloomingdale’s, where she, then assistant manager in women’s sports, and co-workers cooked meals in the store’s restaurant, slept in the furniture department’s model bedrooms, and played Atari video games.

“We had a surreal and fun time,” she said.


Blizzard of ’78, meteorologically speaking…

“There’s no question about the form of precipitation – it will be all snow,” said a spokesman for the National Weather Service, which had forecast at least 12 inches, blizzard-like conditions, drifting snow and tides two-to-four feet above normal, according to a Newsday report.

“You have the makings of a real mess,” a weather service spokesman said.

How it unfolded, according to a NOAA storm report:

-Late Feb. 5, “a weak low moved into Pennsylvania, bringing light snow.”

-Early on Feb. 6, “a secondary storm developed off the Carolina coast…intensified rapidly, moved northward to about 60 miles south of eastern Long Island.”

-It then “remained almost stationary for about 12 hours before redeveloping farther eastward.”

-“Temperatures were in the 20s and winds gusted to over 50 m.p.h. with blizzard conditions most of the 6th into the morning of the 7th.”

Tips and numbers you need in a storm

Here’s a list of helpful numbers, websites and tips to get you through a storm.



Electricity and gas

  • Electric outages and downed power lines should be reported to PSEG by calling 800-490-0075 or online by signing in to your PSEG account.

  • Gas leaks should be reported to National Grid by calling the Gas Emergency Line at 800-490-0045.

What you should have

FEMA recommends having a disaster kit that includes:

  • Three-day supply of nonperishable food
  • Three-day supply of water, or 1 gallon of water per person per day
  • Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Sanitation and hygiene items, such as moist towelettes and toilet paper
  • Matches and a waterproof container
  • Whistle
  • Extra clothing
  • Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils, including a hand-operated can opener
  • Photocopies of credit and identification cards
  • Cash and coins
  • Special-needs items, such as prescription medications, eyeglasses, contact lens solutions and hearing-aid batteries
  • Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles and pacifiers
  • Other items to meet your family’s needs

Other Tips

  • Fill up vehicles with fuel.
  • Listen to local officials.
  • Pick people to call who are on and off the Island in case you become separated from family members.
  • Never use portable generators indoors, in garages or near open windows

Food Safety

If electrical power is lost:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold enough for a couple of hours.
  • If it looks like power will be out for more than two to four hours, put refrigerated milk, dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, gravy, stuffing and leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice.
  • If the refrigerator was out for more than two to four hours,
  • discard the perishable items.
  • A freezer that is half-full will hold for up to 24 hours; a full freezer for 48 hours. If it appears the power outage will be prolonged, prepare a cooler with ice for freezer items.
  • If the freezer is fairly full and it has been without power for less than 24 hours, food should be safe. Expect a loss of quality with refreezing.
  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwater. If in doubt, discard it.
  • Do not eat food packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth and similar containers that have been water-damaged.
  • Discard food and beverage containers with screw-caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps, flip tops and home-canned foods if they have come in contact with floodwater. These containers cannot be disinfected.

Nassau contacts

  • North Hempstead:
    Call 311 or 516-TOWN-311 (516-869-6311) for a service representative or go to northhempstead.com.
  • Hempstead:
    Call 516-489-5000 or visit townofhempstead.org.
  • Oyster Bay:
    Go to oysterbaytown.com or call highway department to report downed trees at 516-677-5757.
  • City of Glen Cove:
    Go to glencove-li.us or call the Department of Public Works at 516-676-4402.
  • City of Long Beach:
    Visit longbeachny.org or call City Hall at 516-431-1000.

Suffolk contacts

  • Babylon:
    Visit townofbabylon.com or call the public safety department at 631-422-7600 to report downed trees.
  • Brookhaven:
    Call the highway department at 631-451-9200 to report downed trees or visit brookhaven.org.
  • East Hampton:
    Go to ehamptonny.gov or call the highway department to report roadway obstructions at 631-324-0925.
  • Huntington:
    Visit huntingtonny.gov or call its 24-hour emergency number, 631-271-6573, or for downed trees, 631-499-0444.
  • Islip:
    Visit townofislip-ny.gov or call 631-224-5600 to report downed trees or power lines.
  • Riverhead:
    Call the storm hotline at 631-727-3200 or visit townofriverheadny.gov.
  • Smithtown:
    Call the Public Safety Department at 631-360-7553.
  • Southampton:
    Go to southamptontownny.gov or call 631-283-6000.
  • Southold:
    Visit southoldtownny.gov or call 631-765-1800.
  • Shelter Island:
    Visit shelterislandtown.us or call 631-749-0291.

Jose On The Way: How To Track The Storm

A hurricane – and its forecast – are moving targets. As Jose makes its way north, forecasters are closely monitoring the storm’s conditions and movements in order to update their outlook accordingly.

If you want to keep up with the latest on Jose, here are some links and resources you can check regularly, as the forecast continues to be fine-tuned.

A rundown of local watches, warnings and advisories

Click here to see conditions for your town

Where Jose’s center is expected to go and when

National Hurricane Center forecasters plot the storm’s track, using a cone-shaped image. The cone shows the range of potential paths for the center of the storm and is not indicating the size of the storm overall and where major impacts may be. There can be plenty of impacts outside that cone.

The image also shows color-coded areas where watches and warnings have been issued

Click here for latest version

Here, find an interactive map showing potential wind speeds.

Click here for latest version

The cone of uncertainty: It’s not called that for nothing. The cone’s track record? “Statistically, two-thirds of all cyclones stay within this cone, while one-third strays outside the cone,” according to a briefing from the weather service’s Upton office.

More on the cone of uncertainty

What storms look like from space

GOES-16 is the most advanced weather satellite NOAA has ever developed. It detects conditions from far above Earth. Click here to see Jose

How strong the winds will be

You can see here the probabilities for sustained wind speeds of 39 mph or more.

Click here for latest version

When the winds will come

There are two options for viewing this map for residents with varying risk tolerance when it comes to making outdoor preparations.

Those with low risk tolerance, who want to get things done well in advance, can see the “earliest reasonable” times to expect tropical force winds to start. (Pictured below, as of Monday afternoon)

Others can click the “most likely” time option. (It’s a new tool, updated with new forecasts, from the National Hurricane Center.) Click here for latest version

Rain – how much?

Rain, and other impacts, are dependent on the storm’s ultimate strength and track. A track farther to the west means more rain for the Island – to the east, less.

Click here for latest version

News updates on Twitter

Your forecasters are on social media, too. Keep track of their tweets for the latest information.

  @NWSNewYorkNY:

National Weather Service New York’s latest tweets

  @NWSEastern:

National Weather Service Eastern Region’s latest tweets

  @NHC_Atlantic:

National Hurricane Center’s latest tweets for the Atlantic region