Snowstorm Niko’s aftermath
Bellport Lane on Friday morning, after the blizzard dumped a foot of snow in the area.

Adv/Smith

Snowstorm Niko’s aftermath

Story By: TARA SMITH
2/16/2017


A messy, early-morning wintry mix soon turned into fast falling snow last Thursday morning, Feb. 9. In Bellport, the snow started falling rapidly around 7 a.m., with winds picking up soon after. Around noon, Mayor Ray Fell estimated around 8 inches had already fallen and that the village was expecting between 12 and 14 inches total. The highway department had been out since 5 a.m. to try and keep ahead of the storm, he explained.

By mid-afternoon, Fell noticed the snow letting up and said the worst was probably behind us. “It’s heavy and wet, which makes it hard to move, but they’re hanging in there and slowly making progress,” Fell said of the highway department crews, who were hard at work during the storm.

Their crew, 10 men strong, had the roads salted early and then began the challenge of clearing the roads. “They went out early to try and keep on top of it,” Fell said. 

Village highway superintendent Jason Crane said that his crews were out until 10 p.m. Thursday night and started up again at 5 a.m. Friday morning. No vehicle traffic was allowed on Brookhaven roadways starting at 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared a state of emergency at 11 a.m., ordering all nonessential travel to cease.

“It was a very challenging storm,” Crane said of winter storm Niko. Other motorists were a frustrating challenge he pointed out, since driving over the wet, freshly fallen snow packed it down and made it more difficult to plow. “The 3-4 inches of snow falling per hour and the temperature dropping so low made it a challenge to get enough salt down and get the snow off the road before it froze.”

Another challenge, Fell pointed out, was the logistics of plowing the village. At one square mile, Bellport may seem like a manageable area to keep clear during a storm, but “it’s still difficult,” he said, explaining that going up and down each village street one time equates to 16 miles. Crane explained that the highway crews make at least five passes on a roadway, so it takes about 80 miles of driving to get it clear. 

“Then they have to go back and do the side roads,” Fell said.

Crane said that the village hired an outside contractor to help shovel the sidewalks and make sure they were properly salted. The morning after, the sun shone brightly and many village residents praised their efforts. At a public hearing for a historic district Saturday morning, many residents and board members noted the stark difference in how clear the roadways were inside and outside of the village.

“Luckily, we were able to keep up on it,” Crane said, reflecting on the storm.