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Forecast: Blizzard warning for most of Long Island

Steve Schnittger of Huntington looks at snow shovels

Steve Schnittger of Huntington looks at snow shovels inside the County Line Hardware store in Huntington Station on Sunday, March 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

A blizzard warning is in effect for most of Long Island Tuesday as a major late-winter storm is expected to bring 12 to 18 inches of heavy snow and blizzard conditions, forecasters said.

Eastern Suffolk — east of the William Floyd Parkway — is under a winter storm warning, as a wintry mix and a changeover to rain are possible, holding down accumulations in the range of 8 to 14 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The predicted snow amounts “could definitely still change,” weather service meteorologist Brian Ciemnecki said at 5 a.m. Monday. “It’s all going to be about the track of the low. The center of the storm, its exact path is going to make a big difference. That’s the challenging part here.”

The further west the storm tracks the more rain as warmer air gets pulled in; the further south and east, more snow, Ciemnecki said.

News 12 Long Island meteorologist Rich Hoffman said it’s “a very difficult forecast, but be prepared for a foot of snow.”

As the storm kept Long Island in its crosshairs, state and local officials spent Sunday preparing for the worst and warning residents to be ready.

The late winter blast comes courtesy of a system that plunged from Canada down through the upper Midwest before bumping up against another strong front out of the southeast, Ciemnecki said.

With the blizzard and winter storm warnings in effect between midnight Tuesday and midnight Wednesday, Long Islanders could see whiteout conditions, piles of snow and dangerous drifts, and even flooding in coastal areas.

Temperatures during the storm will hover in the mid-20s at night and just barely top the 30-degree mark during the day Tuesday when the heaviest snow is expected to fall. Forecasters predict winds between 35 and 50 mph and gusts of 60 mph across eastern Long Island.

“The daytime hours will be the bulk of the snowfall,” said Carlie Buccola, another meteorologist for the service’s Upton bureau. She said commuters Tuesday can expect heavy snow to and from work.

Sunday night, the National Weather Service issued a coastal flood watch for the South Shore bays.

Earlier in the day, officials with the weather service encouraged residents in South Shore coastal areas and near New York’s lower harbor to protect their property before potential moderate coastal flooding Tuesday morning. High tides could be 2 to 3 feet higher than normal, which could damage vulnerable shore roads and basements. On the water, wind gusts of 44 to 55-plus knots are possible, with seas ranging from 15 to 20 feet on the ocean and 8 feet on Long Island Sound.

Areas vulnerable to flooding include Long Beach, Freeport, Seaford and Amityville, the weather service said.

With the possible flooding in mind, Long Beach public works crews will construct temporary dunes at beach entrances Monday morning to gird the area for a potential storm surge, said city spokesman Gordon Tepper.

Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said officials will keep residents updated about storm measures, especially because many live in homes that were damaged in superstorm Sandy.

State and county officials Sunday said they are monitoring the storm, preparing snow equipment and making sure they have enough sandbags, salt for icy roads and snow plows at the ready. They also are putting their emergency operations offices on alert.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said all state agencies are prepared to deploy personnel and equipment such as emergency generators, pumps and sandbags.

“The state will be proactively deploying resources to potentially impacted regions to stay ahead of the storm and keep New Yorkers safe,” Cuomo said in a news release Sunday. “I encourage all New Yorkers in affected regions to plan ahead, and avoid any unnecessary travel as the storm progresses.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said that additional 911 dispatchers will be in place Monday night.

“We know the drill, we’ve been through some serious storms in Suffolk,” he said.

Suffolk is doing what it usually does before a predicted large snowstorm, Bellone said, but it’s “not what you would expect in the middle of March.”

Southern Suffolk County could have less snow accumulation than other areas because it might get a wintry mix during the storm, the weather service said.

In Nassau, County Executive Edward Mangano said in a statement that the Office of Emergency Management has put assets in place throughout the county and “will be staffed around the clock starting Monday.”

Transportation officials said teams at the Long Island Rail Road, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority will monitor the storm and react based on its severity.

Even so, LIRR spokesman Shams Tarek said the railroad is preparing for a major weather event. Crews are fitting trains with equipment to reduce icing on the third rail and prevent air brake lines and passenger fleet door panels from freezing, Tarek said.

If the predictions of blizzard conditions and heavy snowfall pan out, Tarek said, LIRR officials will discourage train travel. Service will likely be severely curtailed or suspended, especially if there are frozen switches or loss of third rail power, Tarek said.

Cuomo urged travelers to sign up for updates on Port Authority crossings, airports and the PATH systems at paalerts.com. Travelers may also call 511 or visit 511ny.org or 511nj.org for further information on highway conditions.

In North Hempstead, crews will brine more than 600 lane miles of town roadways in preparation on Monday, spokeswoman Rebecca Cheng said in an email Sunday.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the utility was keeping a watchful eye on the forecast Sunday as officials continued to formulate a storm plan and check equipment.

“We’re taking the necessary steps for whatever Mother Nature sends our way,” Weir said.

With Deon J. Hampton and Ted Phillips

Tuesday’s expected snowfall forecast:

  • Midnight: Light snow begins to fall.
  • 7 a.m. to noon: Heaviest snowfall is expected at a rate of between 2 to 4 inches per hour.
  • Noon to 9 p.m.: Snowfall will begin to taper off.
  • 9 p.m. to midnight: With a 40 percent chance of snowfall, snow showers are less likely but cannot be ruled out.

— Source: National Weather Service

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