Nor'easter bringing heavy rain, high winds, coastal flooding

While much of the Island escaped the snow and sleet forecast for Wednesday afternoon, wind, rain and possible coastal flooding are still predicted. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (Dec. 26, 2012)

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While the evening commute may be wet and increasingly windy as a nor'easter moves in, much of Long Island escaped the snow-sleet mix that had been forecast for Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

A few locations may still see small ice pellets mixed in with rain into the evening, but temperatures are well above freezing, meaning little or no snow in the mix, said weather service meteorologist Tim Morrin at about 4:30 p.m.

The storm "will go down as a windswept rainstorm," said Morrin, based in Upton, though some areas, mostly in western Suffolk County, were seeing a mixed bag that included snow, forecast to turn to rain in the early evening.

Long Island is on track for heavy rain, high winds and potential coastal flooding that were also forecast, he said.

Look for a possible inch or two of rain overnight, said David Stark, a meteorologist also based in Upton.

A high wind warning was in effect from 4 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday, he said, with winds forecast to reach 30 to 40 mph and possible gusts overnight up to 60 mph.

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As of 4:30 p.m., Morrin said, wind gusts of 30 mph or above were being reported at spots along the North and South shores, including Eatons Neck and East Moriches.

The Long Island Power Authority "is closely monitoring the storm and has arranged for extra line crews, tree trimmers and support personnel ready to respond to any power outages that our customers may experience," said spokesman Mark Gross in a statement. Gross added that "high winds and flooding could create hazardous working conditions that can impact the time it takes to safely restore electric service."

While snow is expected to pound states along the Great Lakes and areas north and west of New York City, the Upton-based service said Nassau and Suffolk counties should expect periods of heavy rain and high wind.

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The storm system already dumped snow and sleet on the nation's midsection and unleashed damaging tornadoes around the Deep South.

Flights into and out of LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports were delayed Wednesday because of adverse weather and wind conditions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Travelers are urged to contact their airlines about flight status.

The Long Island Rail Road said it was not anticipating any snow accumulation from this storm, which is what could lead to the LIRR suspending service or running on a modified schedule. Nevertheless, LIRR officials say they have extra crews out protecting the system and readying for its impact.

"We have crews at the ready to address fallen trees, downed wires and broken crossing gates," LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said. "Those are the things that we'd anticipate happening in this particular storm."

The LIRR already has heaters in place at critical switches to prevent freezing and is preparing to run de-icing trains, which coat the third rail with antifreeze. Officials are also closely monitoring weather reports and are ready to respond to any major change.

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Coastal flooding during high-tide periods could be an issue for the South Shore and the twin forks, Stark said, and on the North Shore, mainly in Nassau and western Suffolk.

A coastal flood advisory and warnings are in effect for portions of each shore, Stark said.

For the South Shore, an advisory has been issued for Wednesday evening's high tide and a warning for high tide on Thursday morning. The weather service said that "significant beach erosion is also likely."

A main area for concern over erosion is the eastern end of Robert Moses State Park, where a dredging project to replace sand that was displaced by superstorm Sandy has yet to begin, said George Gorman, deputy regional director on Long Island for the state office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

When it comes to possible flooding, "we're as ready as we can be at this point," he said, as sand has already been replaced at sections of Ocean Parkway and the area in front of the Robert Moses traffic circle, which were hard-hit by Sandy.

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For Nassau's North Shore and western Suffolk, a warning is in effect for Wednesday's high tide.

By noon Thursday, the rain and wind should start to taper off. Friday's forecast calls for sunny weather, with clouds moving in Friday night and a 30 to 40 percent chance of rain for the weekend.

For boaters, a storm warning for most of Long Island Sound is in effect from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday, the service said. The warning covers areas of Port Jefferson, New York Harbor, Peconic and Gardiners bays and South Shore bays from Jones Inlet through Shinnecock Bay, Moriches Inlet and Montauk Point, and Fire Island Inlet.

With Alfonso A. Castillo, Gary Dymski and AP

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