By Arielle Dollinger
Along with grass marked by mud skid marks and greens wilted of over-hydration, a Wednesday storm shattered Long Island rainfall records, closed countless roads, and, in Melville, is being blamed for a death on the Long Island Expressway.
Suffolk County Police said weather was a factor in a fatal, fiery crash on the Long Island Expressway in Melville which claimed the life of a man, whom police did not identify.
Police said the man was driving a Jeep Liberty westbound near exit 49 on the Long Island Expressway when, at approximately 5 a.m. Aug. 13, he lost control of his car. Police said the Jeep was struck from behind by a tractor trailer, and then hit the cement divider before bursting into flames.
The driver of the Liberty was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation is ongoing, and, as of press time Wednesday, police said the man’s name was being withheld pending positive identification by the Office of Suffolk County Medical Examiner.
The overnight downpours resulted in a traffic nightmare across Long Island during the morning rush, and Huntington was no different. Flash floods closed the Long Island Expressway at Exit 51 in Dix Hills; while Jericho Turnpike in Commack was shut both ways early Wednesday morning.
But when it comes to rainfall, it could have been a lot worse for Huntington, weather reports indicate.
The historic downpour dumped over 13 inches of rain at Islip MacArthur Airport, setting a record for the day, according to the National Weather Service. Nearby, Deer Park was soaked with nearly 8.5 inches. Meanwhile, East Northport got 4.4 inches and Centerport had 3.18 inches of precipitation.
Supervisor Frank Petrone said that, although there were “a few spots of flooding,” Huntington was “fortunate” overall.
“We were spared,” he said.
Superintendent of Highways Peter Gunther said workers pumped water out of flooded areas in Huntington Station and East Northport, and that Creek Road in Halesite was “damaged and partially washed out during the storm.”
Workers were on site Wednesday to repair damage to Creek Road, which was closed to all but local traffic.
Despite the possibility of water contamination in the wake of a water main break on Creek Road, Joe Pokorny, Deputy CEO for operations of the Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA), said Wednesday there had been no contamination of any kind.
“During the storm, the water flow through the creek was so great that it scoured out the area around the pipe, so all the dirt and gravel that held the pipe in place was blown [carried] away,” Pokorny said.
The SCWA has isolated the pipe, Pokorny said, and will disinfect it with chlorine, “purge” it of any foreign contents and put it back into service.
Two additional water mains broke on Mill Lane in Huntington and Cumberland Street in Northport. The Highway Superintendent said he was unsure if the downpour contributed to the break.
“It may just be a coincidence,” Gunther said.
Sweepers will be out later this week to clear dirt and debris from the storm, Gunther said.
Meanwhile, detectives are asking anyone with information on the Melville crash to call the Second Squad at 631-854-8252
-Danny Schrafel contributed to this report.