After the storm
ISLIP TOWN—It’s hard to believe it’s been a week since Winter Storm Grayson moved up the East Coast—from northern Florida to Maine’s Canadian border.
One of the most popular terms to describe the storm was “bomb cyclone.” While this was obviously used to get clicks by various media outlets, it is in fact an obscure but very real meteorological term, describing a storm that suddenly intensifies following a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure. The term caught on after President Donald Trump’s gung-ho tweet about nuclear war with North Korea that same week.
The storm last week qualified as a bomb cyclone and a nor’easter—the second being a storm that runs along the East Coast of North America. Seven of New York City’s 10 worst floods on record have been from nor’easters, according to “Dissecting Sandy’s Surge,” published by AtmosNews in 2012.
Islip Town supervisor Angie Carpenter declared a state of emergency on Thursday, Jan. 4, in response to Grayson’s heavy snow and icing, strong winds, extremely low temperatures, impassable roads, potential coastal flooding, and other blizzard-related conditions. The town’s Department of Public Works launched its plow operation the morning of the storm, dispatching 450 pieces of equipment onto the town’s 1,200 miles of roadway.
The National Weather Service has released precipitation counts from last week’s storm. The amount of snow varied depending on the town, but still exceeded expectations. The NWS originally predicted up to a foot of snow over certain parts of Suffolk County. Long Island MacArthur Airport saw 15.8 inches, according to a Federal Aviation Administration observer. Bohemia was hit with 16.3, the highest reported in the Town of Islip. The hamlet of Islip got 9.5 inches, while West Islip got 12. Sayville was hit with 14.6.
The following day (Friday) was sunny but cold, with a high of 12 degrees. The low was 6 degrees, with wind chills making it seem between -5 and -15. Wind gusts also reached up to 45 miles per hour.
MacArthur Airport ended up cancelling 20 flights in total. Plowing began at 5:30 a.m. on the day of the storm, but the airport was forced to shut down shortly before noon. “It was a race against time,” said Shelley LaRose-Arken, MacArthur’s aviation commissioner. “The temperature was dropping and we couldn’t let all the snow turn to ice.”
The airport reopened last Thursday night at 11:30 p.m., with the first flight departing at 8:30 a.m. and the first flight arriving at 10:25 a.m. the following day. Plowing resumed until 5 p.m. on Friday. “There were whiteout conditions,” LaRose-Arken said. “The wind gusts made the cleanup very difficult, but our team did a great job.”
“I can’t say [enough about] how thrilled I was with the snow removal program,” said Carpenter. “While many of us were inside, our crew was out there. It’s not easy work.”
Two deaths were reported to the Suffolk County Emergency Operations Center during last week’s storm.
“Two individuals were reported to have died, while the third person survived after being treated at the hospital,” wrote Jason Elan, a spokesman for Suffolk County, in a statement the day after the storm. “Of the two males who were initially reported to have died, one had, in fact, survived after being treated at the hospital. The third individual, a female, did in fact pass away.”
Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone later said 65-year-old Daniel Willis of Lindenhurst died while removing snow. Authorities said Willis was the only person in the county whose death could be attributed to the storm. The unidentified woman’s death in Islip wasn’t classified as weather-related.
Shoveling snow can be vigorous exercise and challenging to the heart. And while it is a safe form of exercise for most, before shoveling it is recommended to get a green light from a doctor for anyone who is considered to be at risk for coronary heart disease. The strenuous activity, along with the cold weather, makes the cardiac cost of shoveling snow disproportionately high. Men, smokers and people with a parent who was diagnosed with coronary heart disease before the age of 45 (male) and 55 (female) are more at risk of a heart attack.
Here are some reported recommendations: Don’t plunge right into the task; ease into it. Use a shovel that’s light on your back and spray it with cooking oil so the snow slides off easier. Bundle up and take plenty of breaks. Don’t eat a big meal before or soon after shoveling (as digestion adds to the heart’s overload) and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. No alcohol, as it increases the sense of warmth and allows you to misjudge the cold temperatures. And call 911 immediately if you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, faintness, or any other symptoms associated with a heart attack.
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