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Highway Super: Town Is Ready for More Snow

Alex Gregor says highway crews are notified they may be called back into work, and says residents may have to adjust their expectations after big snow events like the February blizzard.

Though an earlier forecast for up to 9 inches of snow in Westhampton and Hampton Bays was significantly downgraded, the National Weather Service now says that between 4 and 7 inches of snowfall is expected — and Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor says his department is ready to go no matter what Mother Nature brings.

“We start preparing for the next storm after the last storm,” Gregor said Thursday morning.

Because rain is expected prior to snow, Gregor said the highway crews will not brine the roads before the weather hits. If snow were coming first, he said, they would apply apply brine — a salt solution.

At the very least, crews will be out sanding the roads Thursday night, he said, adding that when snow accumulations reaches 3 or 4 inches, plowing begins.

The highway department was 48 field workers and a fleet of 40 trucks and eight payloaders, all with salting and sanding capabilities, he said.

“We’re glad it's March,” Gregor said, pointing out that temperatures may hit 50 degrees this weekend, so the fallen snow won't linger for long.

He said it is a much different picture than the February blizzard. “The February storm cost us about $300,000 — labor material, parts and rental contractors to help us.”

Big events like the blizzard, which dropped 12 to 19 inches of wet, heavy snow, are costly, Gregor said. He is seeking reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but was doubtful that any money would come.

Gregor acknowledged that some people were unhappy with the highway department's  response during and after the blizzard, but he said that some expectations are unreasonable.

“The men and women worked very hard through the storm and they did a good job," he said of the highway crews. "Could they have done a better job in February? Yeah, but we’re limited in out budget" and number of staff, he said.

In addition to 480 miles of town-maintained roads, the highway department was also called on to snow an additional 100 miles of private roads, because a snow emergency was declared during the blizzard, Gregor said.

“We as elected officials have to be very concerned about giving the public very realistic expectations: What we can do and what they can expect,” he said. He said that it was unreasonable for anyone to expect the town would be back to normal a day after the worst snowstorm Southampton has scene since 1978. 

That is especially true at a time when budgets and workforces are shrinking, he said. “That means that people have to work longer and harder to get the job done.”

He explained that in top of the roads, the highway department is also called on in a snow emergency to plow at train stations and at emergency calls from the police, ambulance companies and fire departments, and must also get around to clearing parking lots and sidewalks.

"I’ve tried to be helpful, creative and also realistic," he said. Sometimes you have to tell people, 'It's wintertime, it’s a bad blizzard, it's going to be inconvenient for a while.'"

Thursday's snow is not expected to be near enough to constitute a snow emergency, Gregor said.

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