Long Island to get 2 to 4 inches in overnight snowfall
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The overnight snow forecast has been scaled back to 4 inches or less, and the flakes will give a snow-torn Long Island a one-day reprieve before making a comeback Saturday, forecasters said.
All this is on top of an unexpectedly high 14 inches that the storm unloaded on the Island Thursday morning and a lightning-thunder show that surprised the region.
"This is a very dynamic storm," said meteorologist David Stark of the National Weather Service in Upton.
He said the night flashes were caused by a cold, low-pressure system coming from the south and bumping up against less cold air in the atmosphere above the Island.
For a brief moment, the friction between snow or ice crystals caused enough electricity to create bolts of lightning, which shot through the air, leading to thunder, Stark said.
The overnight snow, which had been expected to total up to 8 inches before estimates were scaled back, was to start at 1 a.m. and taper off by 6 a.m. Forecasters said the heavier bands of overnight snow had moved further north and west than expected, a break for the Island.
All told, parts of the Island were expected to get as much as 14 to 18 inches from the two-punch storm.
Friday morning will dawn to a struggle toward normalcy.
The Long Island Rail Road will operate on one of its modified schedules for Friday morning's rush hour, with 14 of its normal 144 trains canceled.
Many Islanders will wake up to see if their streets have been plowed by snow plow operators who have barely napped.
"We're up to the challenge," payloader operator Arthur Hendrickson, 57, said Friday morning as he waited in a state transportation depot for the overnight flurries.
He had spent hours plowing Southern State Parkway and its overpasses in Nassau, where motorists honked at him.
"We're in the way," he said, because he was going 10 mph.
All this comes after a snow-weary Island expected up to 10 inches in a 30-hour period but instead got up to 14 on Thursday morning, mostly around the rush hour.
The flakes fell at a rate of 3 to 4 inches an hour just as morning commuters braved wind gusts of up to 45 mph on Thursday.
"It was too hard for the car," said Stephen Passman, 59, of Plainview, as he shoveled his driveway. "It makes me wish I was in Florida."
For the season so far, total snowfall is 40.8 inches in Upton, where the National Weather Service is located. The average there is 31.67 inches by this date.
Friday, temperatures of 38 should melt the top layer of the walls of snow shoved high in parking lots and on major roads. However another 1 to 3 inches will be added Saturday from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the weather service predicted.
The one-two punch of snow Thursday jolted the LIRR, airports and the power supply.
LIRR passengers faced systemwide delays Thursday morning, then, in the evening, the Huntington-Port Jefferson branch was disrupted, with westbound rush-hour service suspended between Hicksville and Port Jefferson Thursday night and only diesel trains operating east of Hicksville.
Problems were exacerbated on that branch when a train hit a vehicle stranded on the tracks in Greenlawn during the Thursday morning rush hour after its driver, citing poor visibility, thought it was a road. No one was hurt.
Service was suspended for an hour and 20 minutes, so no trains pushed aside the precipitation on the rails, said Joe Calderone, LIRR's vice president of customer service. "That contributed to the ice and snow buildup."
Nassau and Suffolk police reported more fender benders than usual on the roads, and airlines canceled dozens of flights at local airports.
Visibility fell to less than a quarter mile, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Long Island and several other counties.
The winds and snow caused power outages to about 11,400 people and all but 235 had lights back on by about 1 a.m. Friday, PSEG-Long Island said.
Some Islanders could hardly cope.
Celeste Lopes, a Plainview resident for 51 years, said the road she lived on behind the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library was not cleared until about 2 p.m.
"It's usually a lot better," said Lopes, who stayed home from work, citing uncertainty about the LIRR and road conditions. "This year has been really bad."
But while the storm kept many people home from work, it wasn't bad enough to keep some from shopping.
At the Garden City Lord & Taylor shopping complex, Charlie Buhler couldn't plow fast enough for shoppers, who would zoom into a parking spots after he was barely done with them, he said. Having done the snow removal there for 10 years, he was beyond arguing with them, he said.
"If they had stayed home, life would have been easier," said Buhler, 56, an employee of Pratt Bros. construction company in Holtsville.
The most snow fell in northern and western Long Island, with unofficial reports showing Bayville had 14.6 inches shortly after noon, the weather service said.
Trained spotters also reported 13.5 inches in Woodbury, 13.1 in St. James, 12.5 in Smithtown and 11.7 in Plainview, the weather service said.
The record seasonal snowfall was in 1995-96, when the Island got 90.75 inches.
The Island has recorded 10 snowfalls this year, the weather service said.
The unusual inundation prompted a call for "snow angel teams" to help seniors, those at risk due to the weather and those who live alone.
The suggestion was sent to 196 parishes spread across the Island, New York City and seven upstate counties by Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"Not since superstorm Sandy have we seen this level of disruption in our daily lives," Rimbo said. "A government state of emergency can clear the LIE [Long Island Expressway], but we have individual responsibilities to our neighbors who may be literally trapped in their homes."
Among the few who appreciated the weather and eagerly went to work Thursday were the meteorologists at Upton.
Forecaster Bill Goodman said they marveled over the cornucopia of snowflakes, so many that they got stuck to each other and turned into something the size of half dollars by the time they reached the ground.
"For us, it's just a sense of amazement when the snow comes down that hard, and snowflakes are that big," Goodman said. "For a lot of us, it's what got us interested in weather as kids."
With Patricia Kitchen, Gary Dymski, Robert Brodsky and Scott Eidler