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Bitter cold grips Long Island; high winds and dusting of snow expected overnight

Chris Blanchfield, of Bay Shore, is bundled up

Chris Blanchfield, of Bay Shore, is bundled up in the cold in Bay Shore as he walks along Fifth Avenue on Jan. 8, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

Bitter cold weather continued to grip Long Island on Thursday night with wind chill values hovering in the single-digit to 10-degree range amid powerful winds, the National Weather Service said.

What's more, snow is on the way.

"Late tonight and into Friday we have a cold front approaching the area," said Nelson Vaz, of the Upton-based weather service. "We also have potential for snow showers, especially in the Long Island area, with snow likely developing before daybreak."

Temperatures Thursday night are expected to dip into the teens, he said.

The National Weather Service put out a wind advisory to take effect from 4 a.m. Thursday to 1 p.m. Friday for Suffolk County with southwest winds of 25 to 35 mph winds and gusts up to 55 mph expected.

"Increasing southwest winds in the pre-dawn hours will peak Friday morning then become west and diminish to below advisory levels in the afternoon," the service said.

A wind advisory is issued when there are sustained winds of 31 to 39 mph expected or gusts of 46 mph to 57 mph, the service said.

The snow Friday will complicate the morning rush hour, but Vaz said the accumulation will be minimal, from a dusting to an inch or so.

Friday will also be cold, in the 20s, and gusty, with winds reaching 30 mph, while Friday night's temperatures won't clear the teens, Vaz said.

The severe weather developments continue a cold snap that blasted the region starting Wednesday night and intensified into Thursday morning: For a 12-hour period, the wind chill value never got above minus 7 degrees, based on the hourly measurements taken at Long Island MacArthur Airport, according to the weather service.

From 8 p.m. Wednesday until 8 a.m. Thursday, the wind chill range was roughly minus 7 to minus 10 degrees, with the lowest reading of minus 11 degrees at 9 p.m., when winds were gusting to 33 mph, said David Stark, meteorologist with the weather service's Upton office.

The temperature bottomed out at 8 degrees at 2 a.m., and it remained there on the hour at MacArthur until 7 a.m., Stark said. That temperature was 1 degree shy of last year's daily record low, he said.

With the sun came the warm-up.

Shortly before 4 p.m., the temperature at Long Island MacArthur Airport was 20 degrees, the service's Upton office said. The wind chill value was 8 degrees.

"This is dangerous weather," warned Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, standing outside at a Department of Public Works yard in Commack. He said county residents in need of emergency housing should call 631-854-9517 weekdays before 4:30 p.m. for assistance, or 631-854-9100 after hours.

Suffolk County has restocked 20,000 pounds of salt and bought four new heavy-duty snow vehicles for the winter.

Stark said frigid conditions are mostly in store for Nassau and Suffolk counties through most of the weekend, with a slight chance of snow during Friday's morning commute.

A series of cold fronts will sweep in and out of Long Island through late Saturday, keeping daily high temperatures in the upper teens and low 20s, Stark said.

"We had a big one come in Wednesday that brought down temperatures quite a bit," Stark said of blasts of arctic air driving in from the north. "Another moves in Friday morning, with just enough moisture for perhaps some snow."

The cold snap is similar to a period last January when five records related to temperatures were broken at the airport within the first eight days of the month, according to weather service data.

The moisture contributing to snowfall Friday is part of a quick-moving frontal boundary, and although accumulation could be light, it will stick around because of the frigid temperatures.

"So another really cold day, with some snow expected in the morning," Stark said.

Another incoming cold front late Friday brings clear skies and slightly warmer conditions; daytime highs Saturday will be the mid-20s.

By Sunday, that front pushes east and daytime highs in the mid- to upper 30s are expected.

With David M. Schwartz and Patricia Kitchen

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