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High Winds, Power Outages A Major Concern On Long Island

ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) --  Officials on Long Island were urged residents Monday to consider sheltering in place, as the area was slammed another extreme weather event that was described as "potentially historic and unprecedented."

A blizzard warning was in effect for Long Island through midnight Tuesday. Parts of Suffolk County could see 2 feet or more of snow and some areas of Long Island could even see 3 feet, according to CBS2 chief meteorologist Giorgio Panetta.

The snow was already pounding Long Island hard late Monday night.

"I am urging our residents to get home early if they can. If you can get home early, you should, and when you are home, stay home throughout the duration of the storm," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

On Monday night, high winds and power outages were also a major concern, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

Blasts of stinging snow exploded off the Peconic River as violent wind gusts nearly sent residents sprawling.

PSEG workers pledged to be ready to roll and on call through the night.

"We are going to hunker down and be back at work at 6 in the morning," Dory Seymore said.

Interview With Suffolk County Exec Steve Bellone

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all non-emergency vehicles were banned from traveling on roads after. The ban took effect at 11 p.m.

Long Island Rail Road service was shut down at 11 p.m.

Suffolk County Transit bus service was suspended at 6 p.m.

CHECK: Forecast & Alerts | Traffic & TransitSchool Closings & Delays | Flight Status | Cold Weather & Safety Tips | NOAA Weather Briefing

Signs are posted every few miles along the Long Island Expressway, urging drivers to stay off the roadway after the storm hits. As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, two years ago, another storm brought traffic on the roadway to a complete standstill and officials are concerned this storm could do the same.

It was a slow trek until roads were closed, taking one CBS2 crew 3 hours to travel 45 miles.

"It's just nasty, windier," Patty Najdek said.

"What we're concerned about and what we're not totally sure yet is whether (this storm) is going to be a sequel to (the other)," Bellone said. "We're looking at the same type of rapid accumulation and perhaps even greater snowfall totals than we saw in (2013)."

Bellone said if that happens, the county would face a massive snow removal operation that will take days.

Long Island Officials, Residents Preparing For Massive Snowstorm

By nightfall, plows ruled the Long Island Expressway, even as the highway entrance ramps were near deserted, TV 10/55's Richard Rose reported.

"Just spend three hours coming back from Brooklyn in the Sheepshead Bay area, still two more exits to go," Suffolk County resident William Lewin said.

As CBS2's Weijia Jiang reported, there were a few drivers scrambling to meet the 11 p.m. deadline to be off the roads.

"I made sure I left in time. Giving myself at least an hour to get home," Lenna Parisyan said.

Parisyan said the travel ban was a welcome surprised.

"I have never heard of it. I think it's a really good thing to prevent people from getting hurt," she said.

As motorists were heading home, plow operators were starting their shifts.

"Stay home. The roads are horrible. Very, very icy. Even with this thing, very bad," Anthony Minicini said.

Thousands of salt spreaders and plows fanned out across Long Island pre-treating roads, so as to tackle what could be several inches of snow falling per hour.

Officials said they are more prepared than ever, with more GPS tracking of snow removal equipment to deploy smarter, and more lead time to warn the public to get home and stay home.

"Let me be clear- if you are not an emergency worker, do everything you can to stay off the roads tomorrow," Bellone said.

And with the worst of the storm and the most rapid accumulation hitting overnight, officials hoped they could avoid the terrible strandings and pileups that were seen on Long Island roads during a blizzard two years ago.

Long Island officials said they're ready for deteriorating road conditions.

"We're taking this extremely seriously," Tim Sini, assistant deputy Suffolk County executive for public safety, told CBS2. "We've learned lessons from the past, we've changed our communication structure, we're coordinating with all levels of government, and I think that's the key point here."

And indeed, residents of Suffolk County were already hunkering down Monday afternoon, in fears that they could be snowed in. The county has 1,600 square miles of roads and 1.5 million people.

"We suffered severely in this area from Sandy. My home was totally destroyed, which I've now rebuilt," said Islip homeowner Anthony Caligure. "But we'll have some challenges."

But while many businesses were shutting down, one Islip pizzeria said he had no plans to do so.

"We're never closed. We stay open all the time. We haven't closed yet – any weather," he said.

And believe it or not, some Islip residents were actually excited about the snow.

"It's crazy. I love the snow, though. It's so exciting," said Brittany Croccito.

In the town of Islip, officials aren't taking any chances and have activated their emergency response center. Crews will be ready to hit the roads as soon as the snow comes.

"All of our fuel capacity is full to capacity," said Islip Public Works Commissioner Tom Owens. "Friday we had all deliveries of diesel and gas. All of our trucks are up and running. We have 150 pieces of town equipment."

Long Island Officials, Residents Preparing For Massive Snowstorm

Officials there also were urging residents to keep their vehicles off the streets while saying they will keep an especially close eye on Fire Island, WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported.

"It is one of our most fragile areas," said Town Board member Trish Bergin Weichbrodt.

"This storm is going to last over 24 hours and possibly even longer than that," she added. "So we will certainly keep an eye on storm tidal surges."

The town of Islip on the South Shore was monitoring multiple barrier islands, concerned about erosion and even flooding.

"We will certainly keep an eye on storm tidal surges, as well as changing of wind direction, which could very much jeopardize our coastal line," Bergin Weichbrodt said.

Emergency shelters in Islip are open for those in need, officials added.

A snow emergency has been declared in the Town of Hempstead.

"This is going to be a long-term event," Town Supervisor Kate Murray told 1010 WINS. "The snow isn't going to get out of here in an hour or two and so we're just asking people to hunker down, stay off the roads, stay safe with their families and remove their vehicles from the roadway."

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano activated the county's non-emergency hotline at 6 p.m. It will be in operation throughout the duration of the storm.

"Residents are urged to use caution. Our county workforce will be working hard to keep the streets safe, and you can help by keeping cars off the road," said Mangano. "Please review your sheltering plan and locate your battery operated radios in advance should you lose power."

Snow in Plainview, Long Island
Snow in Plainview, Long Island ahead of the expected blizzard on Jan. 26, 2015. (credit: Ilana Gold/CBS2)

The Nassau County non-emergency hotline is (800) 315-5153. All lift-threatening emergencies should be reported to 911.

As the snow moves in and wind picks up, many are concerned about the possibility of power outages.

PSEG Long Island spokesman Jeffrey Weir said he anticipates thousands of outages across Nassau and Suffolk counties.

"No precautions are being left unchecked, and we're making sure that everything is ready to go so we can respond effectively," Weir told CBS2's Ilana Gold.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, the utility is preparing to handle widespread problems by extending shifts, calling in 400 extra workers from the Midwest, South and elsewhere in the state.

"It's really unsure what this storm is going to bring, but we have every expectation to get people restored quickly," Weir said.

The idea of losing power has led to long lines at gas stations.

"That's the main issue: keeping the heat going in the house," said Larry Kirschner, of East Northport, who spent his morning filling up gas cans for his generator.

Danny Persaud, the owner of a Gulf station on Old Country Road in Westbury, said he knew there would be huge demand and planned ahead with fuel supply.

"We got an extra load yesterday, another load coming today, if weather allows it," he said.

If you see a downed wire or experience an outage, call the utility immediately at 800-490-0075.

The Nassau University Medical Center has increased staff and outfitted its vehicles with snow traveling gear. Medical center officials said they expect a large increase in patients as doctors' offices and clinics close due to the weather.

They also expect to see injuries caused by the misuse of snowblowers and generators. Hospital officials also noted Monday that overexertion during snow removal can lead to heart attacks and other medical conditions.

Residents were also taking their own precautions.

"After Sandy we had no power for 12 days," said David Scheinman, who was out buying extra fuel for his generator. "I got a generator right after. I'm not going through it all again."

Louis Consuegra put a plow on his pickup truck to clear his driveway.

"You have to do it every six inches. You don't do it all at once," Consuegra said.

The Red Cross is on high alert. It's urging everyone to do the same and stock up on essentials.

"Right now we're in a standby mode, and our volunteers are ready to go," Craig Cooper of the Red Cross said. "This is the type of storm where we basically tell people to stay home. There is no reason to be outside."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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