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Weekend wind chills could hit 20 below on Long Island

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, said a state of emergency is still in effect, and he urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel and to be careful driving around on secondary roads, which may be icy due to low temperatures. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

After a blizzard-like storm punished much of Long Island with more than a foot of snow, wind chill temperatures dipped to below zero on Friday — and even more dangerous and potentially record-breaking cold is on tap for the weekend.

There was one weather-related fatality, with Suffolk County officials reporting that a 65-year-old man suffered cardiac arrest while shoveling snow during Thursday’s tempest.

The forecast for Saturday is for a high of 13 degrees at Long Island MacArthur Airport, where the record for the day’s coldest high is 17 degrees, set in 1996, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Breezy conditions will make it feel more like 5 to 15 degrees below zero, said Faye Morrone, National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton.

The record low for the date excluding wind chill is 1 degree, set in 1968; Saturday is expected to dip to about 5 degrees.

With a wind chill advisory in effect through 8 a.m. Sunday, Morrone called it “a good weekend to stay inside.” The wind chill was expected to approach minus 10 to minus 20 degrees around daybreak Saturday and Sunday.

But Long Islanders can look forward to comparatively balmy temperatures in the mid- to upper 30s Monday and Tuesday, with a little snow and freezing rain on Monday.

Thursday’s storm contributed to the frigid conditions because as that system was departing, “it pulled down this arctic air mass,” said Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the regional center.

The weather service cautioned that with the kind of severe cold forecast for Long Island, frostbite can occur in as little as a half-hour.

“Those are incredible numbers,” Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone said of the expected wind chill. “The worst thing you can have following a storm like this is extremely low temperature” because it hampers snow removal.

Suffolk police said the man who collapsed while shoveling snow — Daniel Willis of Lindenhurst — was found unconscious in a residential driveway and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, where he was pronounced dead.

No storm-related deaths were reported in Nassau, a police spokesman said.

Bellone said Friday a state of emergency remained in effect, and he advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel and to check on vulnerable neighbors.

On Friday morning, commuters found many main roads plowed down to the black top.

“The main roads look great by and large,” Bellone said. “It’s the secondary or tertiary roads that are the challenge now with the extremely low temperatures. We are hitting it with everything we have.”

Plow operators had plenty of challenges. The storm generally dumped 10 to 15 inches of snow on Long Island, News 12 meteorologist Rich Hoffman said. Long Island MacArthur Airport was blanketed with 16 inches.

The Long Island Rail Road reported its trains were on or close to schedule ahead of the evening commute Friday after experiencing scattered systemwide delays and some cancellations Friday morning.

Buses continued to replace trains between Ronkonkoma and Greenport, following an 8 a.m. change resulting from weather conditions.

The railroad said it would keep waiting rooms open around the clock through Sunday, returning to their normal schedule on Monday.

Just as the railroad started to recover from the weather woes, it was announcing and executing timetable revisions as repairs are set to resume at Penn Station on Monday.

The LIRR said it will reroute five of the 98 morning rush hour trains that normally go to Penn and three of the 86 evening rush hour trains that usually leave the transit hub.

The area’s airports resumed operations Friday morning after grinding to a halt during the storm.

Flights resumed at Kennedy Airport at 7 a.m. Friday. Flight suspensions were lifted Thursday night at LaGuardia Airport, after almost all flights were canceled during the day. Ronkonkoma-based MacArthur reopened at 11:30 p.m. Thursday after closing for about 12 hours, said Shelley LaRose-Arken, MacArthur’s aviation commissioner.

PSEG Long Island said crews worked through Thursday night into Friday to wrap up all major work on a storm that knocked out power to nearly 23,000 customers. All had their lights back on by 9 a.m. Friday or sooner, the utility said.

As intense as the winds and snowfall were, it may take some time to determined whether the storm qualified as a blizzard, the weather service said.

A review is done of data from local weather station sensors that record wind, visibility and precipitation, with Jay Engle, weather service meteorologist in Upton, saying the process can take several weeks.

To be officially deemed a blizzard, a storm must have sustained winds or gusts of at least 35 mph; considerable snow, falling and/or blowing; and visibilities of less than a quarter-mile — with all that occurring for at least three hours.

Gusts in the 40-to-50-mph range lashed Suffolk and Nassau. Wind-whipped snow piled into heaping drifts and spurred dangerous white-out conditions.

Thursday’s 16 inches was the sixth-greatest one-day snowfall on record for MacArthur since records started being kept in 1963, Spaccio said. Looking at Januarys only, it was the third-greatest one-day event.

Apart from the impact on the community, the storm was also a real lulu, meteorologically speaking.

“This type of rapidly intensifying storm with hurricane force winds in this part of the globe during winter is rare,” according to a tweet from the Satellite and Information Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The storm cost Long Island’s economy up to $300 million, primarily in lost worker productivity, according to an estimate from Moody’s Analytics, an economic forecasting firm based in Manhattan.

Adam Kamins, senior economist for Northeastern states at Moody’s, said that the storm cost between $200 million and $300 million in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“This estimate accounts primarily for lost output as schools and offices closed and industries like construction, logistics and manufacturing were shuttered for at least a day” as employees couldn’t get to work, Kamins said. “Any damage associated with this, like most snowstorms, carries a relatively modest price tag.”

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