Long Island Weather: Winter storm watch in effect, more than a foot of snow possible

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This story was reported by Brinley Hineman, Mark Harrington, Lorena Mongelli, John Asbury and Alfonso A. Castillo. It was written by Hineman.

Long Island is bracing for a two-day winter storm arriving Friday night that forecasters say will bring 8 to 18 inches of snow, high winds and potential blizzard conditions.

After days of observing patterns of different storm tracks, the National Weather Service said in an advisory late Thursday that eastern Long Island can expect 12 to 18 inches of snow and blizzard conditions from the north. -est while the rest of Long Island should see between 8 to 12 inches.

“Confidence is growing on the snowfall forecast,” the advisory said, adding, “but there is still uncertainty about the western extent and/or duration of the moderate and heavy snow bands. from Friday night to Saturday. This will be refined over the next 36 hours.”

Indeed, models released by the weather service on Thursday evening still show a worst-case scenario of around 20 inches of snowfall for the island and another best-case scenario, now increasingly unlikely, showing just a few inches.

Newsday meteorologist Bill Korbel in a Thursday evening forecast said there was no doubt a “really big snowstorm was heading our way”. He called for 6 to 8 inches of snow for western Nassau, 8 to 12 inches for central Nassau and western Suffolk and over a foot for the East End.

He acknowledged that the projection of the storm’s track was still unresolved, which meant a degree of uncertainty in the forecast.

Strong winds are always predicted to be a factor.

On Saturday, eastern Long Island is expected to experience sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 55 mph. Winds will be strong, but less destructive, over the rest of the island.

Minor to moderate coastal flooding is likely on the north and south shores.

Governor Kathy Hochul said in a press release Thursday afternoon: “We are monitoring forecasts and preparing for an emergency response to whatever this storm system has in store for us. As we head into the weekend, I encourage New Yorkers to closely monitor their local weather forecasts, stay off the roads and avoid unnecessary travel.”

PSEG said the prospect of possibly high winds with heavy snow could mean broken tree branches falling on wires and causing outages.

“We are ready to respond,” PSEG vice-chairman Mike Sullivan said in a statement. It operates the transmission and distribution system for the New Jersey company’s Long Island division. He said the company will continue to monitor and locate the storm’s path as it approaches. Meanwhile, he said, the company is performing system and logistics checks and has alerted workers to be ready.

“Regardless of the storm’s path, our crews will safely restore all outages as quickly as these winter conditions allow,” Sullivan said.

Customers who see a downed cable or experience an outage during the storm can call 800-490-0075 or text 773454.

The New York State Department of Transportation has 270 plows to clear 4,000 miles of the Long Island highway with additional crews coming to the area to help, spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said.

Canzoneri urged residents to avoid traveling if possible on Friday night and Saturday. He encouraged drivers hitting the road to stay four car lengths behind the plows.

“Social distancing doesn’t stop when you’re driving,” he said.

New York Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said the state has moved the plow and emergency equipment down and repositioned state troopers and crews debris removal, ready to respond to the storm on Long Island and Suffolk County.

“Weather reports are uncertain, but confidence is growing for at least 6 inches of snow in Suffolk County,” Bray said. “For the crews to do their jobs, we need people off the road. Don’t wait until 4 or 5 p.m. tomorrow to see if it’s big. Go home, be safe. It’s worth better be safe on this one.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the timing of the storm could affect commuters returning home on Friday and plow operators working in possible whiteout conditions on Saturday.

“It could potentially be a big storm,” Bellone said. “It could turn out to be much less than that, but we are preparing for it to be a very big storm.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said in a statement, “While we are still uncertain of the path the storm will take and the amount of snow accumulation we will see in Nassau County, we are fully prepared for whatever comes our way.

“The county emergency operations center will activate at 4 p.m. tomorrow for any issues that may arise, the Department of Public Works has all the salt, plows and personnel it needs, and our operators will begin salting the roads on Friday. I urge all residents to call our non-emergency helpline at 516-573-0321 if they need non-emergency assistance.”

The amount of snow could threaten the Long Island Rail Road. According to the LIRR’s published winter policy, service could be “modified or suspended” during heavy snowfall, which the railroad defines as 10-13 inches or more. At this level, the snow could compromise the connectivity of the trains with the electrified third rail.

LIRR service could also be “severely reduced or suspended” during blizzards, when there are sustained winds of more than 39 mph, according to the railroad. Bray said the MTA’s Emergency Operations Center is monitoring whether there should be any changes to LIRR schedules and that the LIRR has canceled all weekend maintenance.

LIRR officials said they plan to begin preparing their system for the weather on Friday by pre-salting stations, protecting track switches from snow and ice buildup and positioning crews and the equipment in key locations to respond quickly to issues.

Janno Lieber, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — the railroad’s parent agency — said Wednesday that the MTA is “starting the communications cycle that plans exactly how we’re going to handle” the storm.

“We have a lot of experience as a team in preparing for weather emergencies and extreme weather,” said Lieber, who noted that LIRR last year rebounded relatively quickly from September’s Hurricane Ida. . “All the preparations that have paid off well in the past will continue at the MTA.”

Mark Smith, spokesman for the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, said the agency has begun preparing its terminals and alerting snow removal crews. He advised bus riders to check the NICE website and mobile app for real-time information.

Cities on Long Island began preparing this week for potential severe weather.

North Hempstead supervisor Jennifer DeSana said her team was notified Thursday afternoon of the inclement weather. Road crews pretreated the roads on Thursday and will return Friday morning. Crews will begin plowing when 4 inches or more of snow has fallen.

“Everyone is ready and the trucks are full of gas,” she said.

Riverhead Town crews spent Thursday mixing salt and sand and attaching plows to trucks. Heavy equipment is on hold due to the possibility of snowdrifts, said Mike Zaleski, the highway superintendent.

Islip Town has assigned mechanics to check equipment and began receiving salt deliveries this week, a spokeswoman said. Salt is at full capacity with 20,000 tons on hand. Crews will begin pre-treating the roads Friday morning and 300 workers are on standby to help clear the snow.

The city of Babylon has 4,500 tons of salt and 100 fully fueled plows before the snow. Public works crews will be on standby Friday evening and will mobilize when the storm’s impact becomes clear, a spokesperson said.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said residents should prepare to stay home on Saturday with a wide range of snow forecasts for the area, blizzard-like conditions with high winds and coastal flooding on the South Shore.

Clavin said plows will be ready before the snow arrives to clear the city’s 1,200 miles of roads.

“The storm makes Long Island a bigger target. We’re telling residents to prepare now,” Clavin said. “Don’t wait until Saturday morning because it will probably be too late. Saturday morning we don’t want you on the roads.”

City of Brookhaven mechanics began evaluating the equipment Wednesday night, Highways Superintendent Dan Losquadro said. Residual salt remains on the roads from the last storm, and Losquadro expects crews to start brining the roads on Friday once he knows if rain is expected before snowfall, as the water would take away the salt. Crews will plow the roads around the clock until the snow stops, he said.

“We are ready,” Losquadro said. “It’s going to be a major storm, but by far not the biggest storm we’ve faced.”

The Brookhaven Fire Department posted on Facebook that its crews had brushed up on their icy water rescue skills with a course and hands-on training.

Huntington Town’s salt barns are filled to the brim with 170 ready-to-use plows, said Andre Sorrentino, the highway superintendent.

The city is concerned about flooding along the coast on Lloyd Harbor Road and Asharoken Avenue, a spokeswoman said. The road department plans to leave the trucks near the roads as a precaution in case they are impassable due to icy conditions.

In Smithtown, crews are in full preparation Thursday and Friday, said William Murphy Jr., general manager of the highways department. Like Brookhaven, Smithtown follows the storm before the workers salt the roads. Murphy predicts 125 pieces of gear will hit the roads once the snowfall begins.

Cities have asked residents to avoid parking on the streets so crews can salt and plow efficiently.

Nassau County has opened three 24-hour warming centers until further notice:

  • Mitchel Field Administration Building: 1 Charles Lindbergh Blvd., Uniondale
  • Cantiague Park Administrative Office: 480 W. John St., Hicksville
  • Wantagh Administration Building: 1 King’s Road, Wantagh
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