One-two punch for LI: Nor'easter on the way

East Coast satellite image (Nov. 7, 2012)

East Coast satellite image (Nov. 7, 2012) (Credit: NOAA)

A powerful nor'easter is expected to batter Long Island on Wednesday with strong, gusting winds and another round of coastal flooding along the same shorelines that saw extensive damage and erosion last week from superstorm Sandy.

The unnamed storm will bring rain, a storm surge and wind gusts of 60 mph, possibly even 70 mph, officials said.

New York City officials are encouraging motorists to stay off the road after 5 p.m., or to use extreme caution if they have to drive.

On Wednesday morning, major airlines were scrapping flights into and out of the New York metropolitan area, The Associated Press reported, adding that United would suspend most New York City service starting at noon. As of 8:45 a.m., about 360 flights had been canceled at Newark Libery, Kennedy and LaGuardia, according to flight tracker FlightAware, AP said.

The AP reported that American Airlines will shut down service into and out of New York at 3 p.m. Wednesday and it was stopping flights to and from Philadelphia at noon.

Most other airlines asked passengers to reschedule Northeast flights for a later date.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sent an alert early Wednesday advising that travelers should check with their airline's flight status before traveling to Kennedy Airport.

The National Weather Service issued a high-wind warning for expected "damaging winds," effective from 1 p.m. Wednesday to 4 a.m. Thursday. Such a warning means "a hazardous high wind event is expected," in this case with 25- to 35-mph winds and gusts as high as 60 mph. But gusts along the coast may peak at 70 mph, David Stark, a meteorologist with the weather service, said.

Such winds are capable of bringing down trees and power lines, and creating minor property damage, officials said.

The weather service also issued a coastal flood warning for the South Shore, Long Island Sound and Peconic and Gardiners bays on the East End from late morning Wednesday through 7 a.m. Thursday.

Temperatures that took a dip increased the misery for those without heat nine days after superstorm Sandy knocked the power off for hundreds of thousands in Long Island.

On Tuesday temperatures hit a record low for Nov. 6 in Islip -- 26 degrees at 6:50 a.m. The previous record of 27 degrees was set in 1991 and 1995, that based on data going back to 1984, said Lauren Nash, a meteorologist also in Upton. Tuesday night's lows, however, were expected to be in the mid-30s, she said.

Though weather service models as of Tuesday indicated the approaching storm "may be nudged offshore a bit further than previously thought," the forecast for Long Island doesn't change significantly, Nash said.

Rainfall is forecast to be from half-an-inch to an inch, she said.

There is a slight chance of snow -- a possible rain-snow mix -- and no expected accumulation, most likely on Nassau County's North Shore and in central Suffolk, said Samantha Augeri, a News 12 meteorologist.

Wet snowflakes may be mixed in with rain, Stark said, but isn't expected to be "anything significant."

A storm surge also could cause "moderate or major" coastal flooding in Nassau and Suffolk where shorelines have been breached and damaged by Sandy.

Surges are expected to be 2 feet to 4 feet, with 3 to 4 feet likely in western Long Island Sound and South Shore bays, Nash said.

In Freeport, one of the areas hit hardest by Sandy, high tide at 1:54 p.m. is expected to combine with almost 4-foot storm surges to push the total water level to about 7 feet, Stark said.

"That's classified as major, however it is much less than what we saw with Sandy," when the total water level exceeded 10 feet in Freeport.

For Kings Point, the water level at 4:37 p.m. will bring 4.5-foot surges, pushing water levels to more than 12 feet, Stark said. Still, that is considered moderate for a nor'easter on the Long Island Sound, he said.

During Sandy, storm surges in Kings Point of almost 9 feet pushed high-tide water levels to almost 14.4 feet, he said. The Kings Point record was 16.75 feet in the 1938 hurricane dubbed the "Long Island Express," Stark said.

Look for possible gusts of 20 to 30 mph starting Wednesday morning as people arrive for work, she said. Based on Tuesday's data, winds are expected to peak from as early as 6 p.m. through midnight Wednesday, Nash said.

Steady rain is likely to start about 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday and taper off Thursday morning, she said.

Still, the South Shore could see showers Wednesday morning, Augeri said.

The new storm figures look to be a strong second punch to those Long Islanders still without power and heat -- and who haven't yet had time to salvage belongings damaged by Sandy.

In Nassau, where there is a mandatory evacuation order for residents "living in a flood or storm surge zone," County Executive Edward Mangano said Tuesday that people struggling to get by in homes without power should watch for information as the storm approaches and go to friends' homes or shelters if necessary.

Atlantic beaches are under a high-surf advisory until 6 a.m. Thursday, which means pounding waves of 8 feet to 12 feet could "create overwash and significant beach erosion," according to the service.

Officials worry especially about the barrier islands, including Fire Island, which normally protect the mainland coasts from wind and tide.

But they've been breached by Sandy, and forecasters fear that nor'easter storm surges could wash away more of the protective beaches.

The Long Island Rail Road said in a statement that it is "monitoring the weather forecast and watching the storm closely. We will have extra crews out to help protect the LIRR's infrastructure against flooding and wind damage."

With Ellen Yan and Gary Dymski

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