Officials in Suffolk and Nassau are stressing safety to residents as the major snowstorm is set to arrive on Wednesday. Newsday's Chelsea Irizarry reports. Credit: James Carbone, Howard Schnapp and Chelsea Irizarry

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Tuesday warned that the snowstorm expected to wallop Long Island could create "blindout conditions" on local roads, making for perilous commutes Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

More than a foot of forecast snowfall and wind gusts reaching 50 mph will hamper plowing operations and make for a "treacherous" commute Wednesday night and a "very, very difficult" commute Thursday morning, Bellone said during a news conference at a public works yard in Commack, where he stood before a small mountain of road salt.

"This will be a major storm event," Bellone said. "We are urging people to use extreme caution."

Snow could begin falling early Wednesday afternoon but will pick up after 5 p.m., the National Weather Service forecast Tuesday afternoon.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which includes the Long Island Rail Road, said Tuesday that it was "hard at work" preparing for the storm, but that the possibility of service suspensions loomed if snow accumulations reached 10 inches or more.

The railroad plans to reduce service on Thursday to "expanded weekend levels." By keeping trains off some tracks, the LIRR said it can operate more snow-clearing equipment — particularly in areas prone to higher snow accumulations, including the Port Washington Branch.

"If the storm worsens, there's a chance we'll have to further modify or suspend service during the storm," said LIRR president Phillip Eng, who directed riders to the railroad's website for details on the four "modified schedules" the railroad could adopt during the storm.

They range from a normal rush-hour schedule with up to 20 canceled trains to a schedule in which only the Port Washington, Huntington, Ronkonkoma and Babylon lines operate, and only at two-hour intervals.

The storm likely will affect far fewer LIRR commuters than in recent years. Ridership remains at around 25% of pre-pandemic levels, although many of those who remain are essential workers.

"We're hoping ridership tomorrow, across the system, is lower than normal. We're urging people to stay home if they have that option. Obviously, not all workers do," MTA chairman Patrick Foye said.

The MTA’s Bridges and Tunnels will suspend noncritical roadway work during the storm and enact a ban on empty and tandem tractor trailers beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

To avoid backups on Long Island highways during the Wednesday evening rush hour, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran advised residents who are able to work from home, to do so or leave work early.

"If possible, avoid traveling on the roads when the storm starts to pick up," she said at a news conference in Hicksville.

Nassau’s public bus provider also warned of "many road closures, detours and delays" in the storm, especially for riders on the North Shore and in flood-prone areas.

"Delays and service disruptions could continue through Friday morning as snowplowing operations continue after the storm has passed," the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, said in a statement. "As always, passenger and employee safety will remain the top priority for NICE Bus."

The State Department of Transportation said it was prepared to respond to the storm with a fleet that includes 1,613 large snowplows, 179 medium-duty plows, 52 tow plows, 13 pickups with plows, and 311 large loaders. The state advised motorists to stay "well behind" snowplows, because plow drivers have limited lines of sight and can experience difficulties maneuvering or stopping quickly.

The timing of the storm, which is expected to peak overnight, may help prevent flight cancellations or delays at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, airport Commissioner Shelley LaRose-Arken said Tuesday.

While the airport operates around the clock, most arrivals land by 9 p.m., she said.

No airlines had announced cancellations at MacArthur by early Tuesday afternoon, LaRose-Arken said. The facility has more than 30 pieces of snow removal equipment ready to clear its 1 million square feet of airfield pavement.

Representatives of the Port Authority did not respond to questions about the likely impact of the storm at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Port Authority officials encouraged travelers to reach out directly to carriers and airlines for the latest information on delays, cancellations and re-bookings.

The Port Authority also urged drivers to use caution when crossing its bridges and tunnels, where speed restrictions may be in effect.

With Robert Brodsky

Preparing for the storm

The State Department of Transportation said, in preparation for Wednesday's predicted snowstorm, it has available:

  • 1,613 large snowplows
  • 179 medium-duty plows
  • 52 tow plows
  • 13 pickups with plows
  • 311 large loaders
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