High wind warning as storm system heads toward LI

Morning rush hour traffic on the westbound Long

Morning rush hour traffic on the westbound Long Island Expressway moves through the fog in Medford. (Jan. 30, 2013) (Credit: James Carbone)

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The temperature in Islip may have hit a balmy 54 degrees Wednesday, but a storm system stretching from the Gulf states to Canada is expected to bring high winds and heavy rain overnight, forecasters said.

A high wind warning is already in effect, as winds of 25 to 35 mph are in the forecast for Wednesday night on Long Island. The strongest winds are expected after midnight, including gusts of 60 to 65 mph, said Joe Pollina, weather service meteorologist in Upton.

That wind, combined with expected heavy rain, "could bring down whole trees, large tree limbs, power lines and unsecured outdoor objects," the National Weather Service said.

More than 5,100 customers, most of them in North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, were without power at 11 p.m. after three fuses were blown in the Glen Head area, according to the Long Island Power Authority. Extra crews were dispatched to handle repairs and power was expected to be restored by 1:30 a.m. Thursday, a spokeswoman said. The cause of the blown fuses is being investigated, she said.

The high wind warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Thursday. The weather service says the warning means "sustained wind speeds of at least 40 mph, or gusts of 58 mph or more can lead to property damage."

Light rain and scattered showers began falling Wednesday afternoon, but the heaviest rainfall is expected from 1 to 7 a.m. Thursday, Pollina said. More than an inch on average is forecast, with more in areas that see an isolated thunderstorm, he said.

"It's a potent system," Pollina said.

Pollina said there may be limited, localized flooding on the Island: "Because of the recent cold weather, the ground underneath is still frozen. It can cause runoff problems."

The storm system has already left its mark to the south: Three tornadoes were confirmed in Tennessee, while additional tornadoes were reported in Kentucky and Georgia, where one man was killed when a tornado hit his mobile home, The Associated Press reported.

In the metropolitan area, average flight arrival delays were two hours at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports Wednesday evening, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website. Many departures were also delayed, and the FAA advised travelers to check with their airlines for specific flight information.

In New York City, police upped the number of highway patrol units and tow trucks available overnight to help motorists affected by the weather.

Dense fog hung over the Island as the afternoon waned, with "widespread visibility less than a mile" and in some locations a quarter of a mile or less, Pollina said. As winds pick up Wednesday evening, the fog was expected to dissipate, he said.

Drivers should use low-beam headlights -- not high beams -- and leave "plenty of distance ahead" in case a sudden stop is necessary, the weather service said.

In addition, a high surf advisory is in effect from 7 p.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Thursday for Atlantic facing beaches and the southern bays of Long Island and Queens, warning of minor coastal flooding and minor-to-moderate beach erosion along the barrier islands.

The difficult weather is expected to continue, with showers expected Thursday, falling temperatures with the possibility of snow or rain on Friday, and partly sunny skies expected Saturday. There's a chance of snow Saturday night into Sunday, forecasters said.

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