It was one for the record books. The 24 inches the blizzard of ‘09 dropped on the East End is the most in December since Richard Hendrickson has been keeping records — and that’s over 80 years. Hendrickson, who is the United States Weather Observer for our region, measured exactly two feet “on the level” at his house on Lumber Lane in Bridgehampton.
The snow has conspired to shut down government as well as local schools.
The Sag Harbor School District announced on its website Sunday that classes will be cancelled tomorrow, Monday, and the Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting scheduled for Monday night has also been cancelled. Families with children in the district received a recorded message from school superintendent Dr. John Gratto on Sunday evening.
Also on Sunday, Southampton Town Supervisor announced town offices and its justice court will be closed on Monday “due to substantial accumulations of snow and hazardous roadway conditions.”
The announcement from the town added that the town waste management stations would also be closed, but that all town offices and services would reopen on Tuesday, December 22.
Supervisor Kabot made the decision to close town government facilities while emergency snowplowing operations will continue through Monday. Both east and west of the Shinnecock Canal have been impacted, with drifts higher than five feet in areas where farmfields and open spaces dominate the landscape.
The supervisor’s order also empowers the town’s highway department to clear private roadways, although the release from the town said private and trustee roads would likely not be addressed until Monday.
Under the executive order issued by Supervisor Kabot, police and public safety officials are authorized to restrict travel as determined to be necessary to ensure highway crews can clear roadways as quickly and efficiently as possible. The Southampton Town Police Department was further authorized to take all necessary steps to remove parked vehicles on town roadways which have been determined to present hazards to the public or interference with emergency operations by the highway crews and public safety officials. Wreckers have been deployed by the Police Department to remove obstructions from vehicles stuck in travel lanes where necessary.
While school and town government will be closed Monday, Sag Harbor Village offices will be open, said Mayor Brian Gilbride on Sunday. Gilbride issued a snow emergency also, and a handful of vehicles left on Main Street, in the way of snow plows, received tickets on Sunday.
Down the center of Main Street Sunday stood mountains of snow about 15 feet high, where the village’s highway department had cleared the roadway to make it passable.
“I want to congratulate Jim Early and the highway department for the great job they are doing,” said Gilbride Sunday evening. “They’ve been out since last night and working all day. They’re taking a break now,” said Gilbride around dinner time, “ but they’ll be back out again tonight.”
Gilbride said the snow was coming at such a fast pace Saturday night into Sunday morning that the highway crew was having difficulty keeping up with it.
“At times it was hard to keep just one lane open,” he said.
“This is definitely one of the biggest storms I can remember,” said Gilbride, who grew up in Sag Harbor.
The mayor said the highway crew will be removing the snow from Main Street on Monday. In addition, he said, the village business district will be prepared for Monday.
“We’re trying to get it ready for the merchants,” he said, adding that the village’s public parking lots are, for the most part, cleared.
“There is some snow,” he conceded, “but there’s just no place to put it.”
Gilbride, who works for Norsic Sanitation, said he had to travel to Southampton on Sunday for work and noted that in some places there was evidence the snow hit much harder.
“I bet there was a band that came through Southampton that had to drop three feet,” he said, noting there were spots where he was walking that were well over his knees.
By midnight Saturday, both East Hampton and Southampton towns had declared snow emergencies, urging drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary as the blizzard with 15-20 mph sustained winds and gusts to 40, blew across the South Fork and the rest of Long Island. The warnings stayed in effect through Sunday morning as most major arteries were passable, yet still covered with snow. Most side roads were cleared by mid afternoon as local highway departments worked overtime trying to keep up with snow that dropped at two to three inches an hour during the height of the storm. Police say they have responded to numerous reports of vehicles veering off the road and Sunday morning has found several vehicles stranded.
Locally, reports of accumulations of 24 inches appear not uncommon, especially where the snow drifted. In Sag Harbor village, drifts topped that. Roads into the village, like Madison Street were plowed buy late morning, but what little traffic there was, was moving slowly.
Nary a headlight could be seen on Long Beach Road on Saturday night at the height of the storm, but by Sunday morning, Noyac Road saw traffic moving slowly.
Our East Hampton correspondents report there was about 20-inches in local backyards, drifts over the hoods of cars, and the side street impassable.
Snow continued through 11 a.m., and as snow ended shortly after noon, the sun broke from the west.
“This has been a good one,” said weather obesrver Hendrickson on Sunday afternoon, who said he had been out in his hip boots, butthey were “hardly enough.”
Hendickson said the water content of the snow was fairly high, equal to about 2.53 inches of rainfall per inch of snow, responsible for the deep wet snow and all the work East Enders were going to have digging themselves out.
“I don’t know who’s going to plow out my driveway, but it’s not going to be Dick Hendrickson,” laughed the nonagenarian.