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Amazing Stories of Survival as one Woman Tells how she Wrote a Goodbye Note to her children while Trapped in the Snow for 12 Hours On Long Island (Photos)

Stranded for hours on a snow-covered road,  Priscilla Arena prayed, took out a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote what she  thought might be her last words to her husband and children.

She told her 9 1/2-year-old daughter, Sophia,  she was ‘picture-perfect beautiful.’ And she advised her 5 1/2-year-old son,  John: ‘Remember all the things that mommy taught you.

‘Never say you hate someone you love. Take  pride in the things you do, especially your family. … Don’t get angry at the  small things; it’s a waste of precious time and energy. Realize that all people  are different, but most people are good.

‘My love will never die – remember, always,’  she added.

Arena, who was rescued in an Army canvas  truck after about 12 hours, was one of hundreds of drivers who spent a fearful,  chilly night stuck on highways in a blizzard that plastered New York’s Long  Island with more than 30 inches of snow, its ferocity taking many by surprise  despite warnings to stay off the roads.

Even plows were mired in the snow or blocked  by stuck cars, so emergency workers had to resort to snowmobiles to try to reach  motorists.

Bail out: Stranded vehicles litter the roadway along Route 25 in Lake Grove, New York on Saturday morning where many had to be rescued and were treated for hypothermia


Snowbound vehicles remained stranded on Saturday along Route 347 in Lake Grove

Four-wheel-drive vehicles, tractor-trailers  and a couple of ambulances could be seen stranded along the roadway and ramps of  the Long Island Expressway. Stuck drivers peeked out from time to time, running  their cars intermittently to warm up as they waited for help. With many still stranded hours after the snow  stopped, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged other communities to send plows to help dig out  in eastern Long Island, which took the state’s hardest hit by far in the massive  Northeast storm.

In Connecticut, where the storm dumped more  than 3 feet of snow in some places, the National Guard rescued about 90 stranded  motorists, taking a few to hospitals with hypothermia.

The scenes came almost exactly two years  after a blizzard marooned at least 1,500 cars and buses on Chicago’s iconic Lake  Shore Drive, leaving hundreds of people shivering in their vehicles for as long  as 12 hours and questioning why the city didn’t close the crucial thoroughfare  earlier.

A man tries to free his car from the snow among dozens of other motorists stranded

A man does his best to move his trapped vehicle out of the snow as it continues to storm down around him

Cuomo and other officials were similarly  asked why they didn’t act to shut down major highways in Long Island in advance  of the storm, especially given the sprawling area’s reputation for gridlock. The  expressway is often called ‘the world’s longest parking lot.’

‘The snow just swallowed them up. It came  down so hard and so fast,’ explained Suffolk County Executive Steven  Bellone

‘That’s not an easy call,’ added  Cuomo, who  noted that people wanted to get home and that officials had  warned them to take  precautions because the worst of the snow could  start by the evening rush  hour.

Flashing highway signs underscored the  message ahead of time: ‘Heavy Snow Expected. Avoid PM Travel!’

‘People need to act responsibly in these  situations,’ Cuomo said.

But many workers didn’t have the option of  taking off early Friday, Arena noted. The 41-year-old sales account manager  headed home from an optical supply business in Ronkonkoma around 4 p.m. She soon  found her SUV stuck along a road in nearby Farmingville.

‘Even though we would dig ourselves out and  push forward, the snow kept piling, and therefore we all got stuck, all of us,’  she recalled later at Brookhaven Town Hall, where several dozen stranded  motorists were taken after being rescued. Many others opted to stay with their  cars.

Richard Ebbrecht left his Brooklyn  chiropractic office around 3 p.m. for his home in Middle Island, about 60 miles  away, calculating that he could make the drive home before the worst of the  blizzard set in. He was wrong.

As the snow came rushing down faster than  he’d foreseen, he got stuck six or seven times on the expressway and on

other  roads. Drivers began helping each other shovel and push, he said, but to no  avail. He finally gave up and spent the night in his car on a local  thoroughfare, only about two miles from his home.

‘I could run my car and keep the heat on and  listen to the radio a little bit,’ he said.

He walked home around at 8 a.m., leaving his  car.

Late-shifters including Wayne Jingo had  little choice but to risk it if they wanted to get home.

By early afternoon, he’d been stuck in his  pickup truck alongside the Long Island Expressway for nearly 12  hours.

He’d left his job around midnight as a postal  worker at Kennedy Airport and  headed home to Medford, about 50 miles east. He  was at an exit in  Ronkonkoma – almost home – around 1:45 a.m. when another  driver came  barreling at him westbound, the wrong way, he said. Jingo  swerved to avoid the oncoming car, missed the exit and ended up stuck on the  highway’s grass shoulder.

He rocked the truck back and forth to try to  free it, but it only sank  down deeper into the snow and shredded one of his  tires. He called 911. A police officer came by at 9:30 a.m. and said he would  send a tow truck.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, Jingo was still  waiting.

‘I would have been fine if I didn’t have to  swerve,’ he said.

In Middle Island, a Wal-Mart remained unofficially open long past midnight to accommodate more than two dozen motorists who were stranded on nearby roads.

Waiting for help: Four-wheel-drive vehicles, tractor-trailers and a couple of ambulances could be seen stranded along the roadway and ramps of the Long Island Expressway

Risky roads: New Yorker, like Connecticut which also had around 90 stranded motorists, did not close their roads on Friday night, instead allowing people to try and drive home

Tucking in: Many drivers worked through the night trying to dig themselves out of their cars but in the end most found themselves undeniably trapped and resorted to spending the night behind the wheel

‘We’re here to mind the store, but we can’t  let people freeze out there,’ manager Jerry Greek told Newsday.

Officials weren’t aware of any deaths among  the stranded drivers, Cuomo said.  Suffolk County police said no serious  injuries had been reported among  stuck motorists, but officers were still  systematically checking  stranded vehicles late Saturday  afternoon.

While the expressway eventually opened  Saturday, about 30 miles of the highway was to be closed again Sunday for snow  removal.

Susan Cassara left her job at a Middle Island  day care center around 6:30  p.m., after driving some of the children home  because their parents  couldn’t get there to pick them up.

She got stuck on one road until about 2:30  a.m. Then a plow helped her get  out – but she got stuck again, she said.  Finally, an Army National  Guardsman got to her on a snowmobile after 4  a.m.

‘It was so cool. Strapped on, held on and  came all the way here’ to the  makeshift shelter at the Brookhaven Town Hall,  she said. ‘Something for  my bucket list.’

About  510,000 homes and businesses remained  without power late Saturday night, down from a total of about 650,000, and some  could be cold and dark for days.

Roads across  the New York-to-Boston corridor  of roughly 25 million people were  impassable. Cars were entombed by drifts.  Some people found the wet,  heavy snow packed so high against their homes they  couldn’t get their  doors open.

‘It’s like  lifting cement. They say it’s 2  feet, but I think it’s more like 3  feet,’ said Michael Levesque, who was  shoveling snow in Quincy, Mass.,  for a landscaping company.

In Providence, where the drifts were 5 feet  high and telephone lines encrusted with ice and snow drooped under the weight,  Jason Harrison labored for nearly three hours to clear his blocked driveway and  front walk and still had more work to do. His snowblower, he said, ‘has already  paid for itself.’

At least five deaths in the U.S. were blamed  on the overnight snowstorm, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was  overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his  father shoveled Saturday morning.

Because the back of the vehicle was  covered  by snow, the exhaust apparently flowed into the car,  overwhelming the child,  who was pronounced dead at Boston Medical  Center. Officials say the boy’s  father suffered a heart attack,  but survived.

An 80-year-old woman was killed by a  hit-and-run driver while clearing her driveway, and a 40-year-old man collapsed  while shoveling snow. One man, 73, slipped outside his home and was found dead  on Saturday, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said.

In Poughkeepsie, New York, a man in his 70s  was struck and killed on a snowy roadway, local media reported.

A 30-year-old motorist in New Hampshire also  died when his car went off the road, but the man’s health might have been a  factor in the accident, state authorities said.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee cautioned  that while the snow had stopped, the danger hadn’t passed: ‘People need to take  this storm seriously, even after it’s over. If you have any kind of heart  condition, be careful with the shoveling.

Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more  than 80 mph in places, the storm hit hard along the heavily  populated  Interstate 95 corridor between New York City and Maine.  Milford., Conn., got 38  inches of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded  31.9, shattering a 1979 record.  Several communities in New York and  across New England got more than 2  feet.

Still, the storm was not as bad as some of  the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of ’78, used by  longtime New Englanders as  the benchmark by which all other winter storms are  measured.

By midday Saturday, the National Weather  Service reported preliminary  snowfall totals of 24.9 inches in Boston, or fifth  on the city’s  all-time list. Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn., got 22  inches, for  the No. 2 spot in the record books there.

Concord, N.H., got 24 inches of snow, the  second-highest amount on record and a  few inches short of the reading from the  great Blizzard of 1888.

No where to go: When the Expressway reopened traffic quickly swarmed in on a road that’s already commonly called by locals, The World’s Largest Parking Lot

In New York, where Central Park recorded 11  inches, not even enough to  make the Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said  the city ‘dodged a  bullet’ and its streets were ‘in great shape.’ The three  major airports – LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. – were up and running by  late  morning after shutting down the evening before.

Most of the power outages were in  Massachusetts, where more than 400,000  homes and businesses were left in the  dark. Hours before midnight  Saturday, about 344,000 customers remained without  power. In Rhode  Island, a peak of around 180,000 customers lost power, or about  one-third of the state. Late night, the total was down to  130,000.

Connecticut crews had slowly whittled down  the outage total to 31,000 from a high  of about 38,000, and power was restored  to nearly all of the more than  15,000 in Maine and New Hampshire who were left  without lights after the storm hit.

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Posted by on February 10, 2013. Filed under NY News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.