Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 14 January 2011 00:00
In case you were surfing it up, basking under the Maui sun or just under a rock the day after Christmas, the northeast was rocked by a snowstorm that dumped 18-20 inches of snow and delayed everything from the workweek, train times, flight departures and arrivals. New York City received harsh criticism for its handling of the storm; and Mineola heard much of the same.
The Village of Mineola’s Department of Public Works outlined the groups overall production and work on the snowstorm at last week’s board of trustees meeting. DPW Superintendent Tom Rini gave a report to the board.
The snow levels varied due to the high winds Nassau County received on Dec. 26-27, which created snowdrifts of up to three feet. Rini was at Village Hall during the first hours of the storm and already had “salt spreaders” and snowplows out.
“By noon time, we were treating the roads,” Rini said. “Snow was coming down pretty good. We treated it with salt and completed that and started calling in some of our plow operators.”
By 6 p.m. during the storm, the village was installing plows on the big trucks and hit the streets to plow more snow. “We had 13 trucks and two of our front end loaders out during the storm,” Rini stated. “There was a prediction at that point for the heaviest of snow coming between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.”
According to Rini, Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) held teleconferences at 5 and 8 p.m. that evening. Rini said at the second conference, he was advised that Nassau County was pulling all their plows in at 9 p.m. and return to plowing at 1 a.m.
With fierce winds and difficult conditions, Rini made the decision to keep the village plows moving. Rini said that the problem was the rate of snow and wind velocity.
“We had already gotten a basic establishment on how wide we could make the roads at that point,” he said. “But at that point I was literally following two of my trucks down the road because we do it in tandem. We were plowing at that time from Jericho Turnpike to First Street, and by the time we turned around on First Street coming up the other way, it had looked like it hadn’t even been plowed.”
At times, Rini said there were people walking in the street, who he said drivers are informed to watch out for. Furthermore, cars left on the street were an issue, but tickets were not issued to cars on the street.
Mayor Larry Werther and Rini decided to not issue tickets that night. In total, Rini had workers out for approximately 28 hours. DPW plowed from 8 a.m. to noon on Dec. 28 as well.
Rini said between this storm and last year’s blizzard, 200 tons of salt were used.
“Conditions were worse than last years storm,” Rini said. “We had, if you recall, about 20 inches the week before Christmas last year. The amount of wind driven snow this year made it difficult to operate. We did receive a few phone calls asking why we didn’t get curb to curb like we normally do. It was very difficult to do so when you couldn’t even feel for the curb. We would go down the road and plow and turn back to only find the street full of snow again.”
Rini labeled the Nassau County roads as “impassable” during the night. There are a number of roads in the area that are the county’s responsibility, like the section of Second Street leading west toward Winthrop-University Hospital. On another note, the Mineola Fire Department had 50 firefighter’s stay overnight at the firehouse during the storm, according to Assistant Chief Jeffrey Clark.
“I did make the county aware that their streets were in bad shape,” Rini said. “We were down working in the railroad area and the hospital has a private contractor that deals with their snow removal. We were assisting each other.”
Village plows removed snow from the county road on Second Street leading to the hospital. Rini said this was at 6:18 a.m. in the morning when he made the call to OEM.
“Basically all of the county thoroughfares were not as clear as ours,” said Rini. A lot of calls we received were not on our roads. They were county roads.”
Other calls made their way to Village Hall on Wednesday, but not via a phone. Local residents who took issue with the village’s snow removal were at the podium to have their say.
“There was garbage all over the place by the businesses because of the snow,” Nancy Desorbo said. “Garbage bags were in the road because of the snow.”
Desorbo supplied the board of trustees with photos to state her claim. Werther stated that garbage from commercial businesses has to be refrigerated on the weekends, since village garbage pickup does not occur on Saturdays. Furthermore, that he would reach out to the businesses that are responsible for misplaced garbage.
“This is not Tom Rini’s fault,” she said. “I’ve called him many times and he’s helped me. But it’s a disgrace to think that this village on the holiest, highest holidays of the year, for two straight weekends looked like the sixth borough of New York City.”
Werther said that he questions why these people put the garbage where they did. “One of the strip malls I see in these pictures is up on Pennsylvania Avenue. That person is supposed to put their garbage in the back of the establishment. So we have a situation here where they put a couch out. How can you have a couch out in front of a strip of stores?”
Local resident David Keefe, who says he’s a frequent “walker” of the village, says some of the sidewalks are still impassable. “You have people walking from the clear part of the sidewalk into the street because the sidewalk is still covered with ice and snow,” he said. “Someone is bound to get hurt.”