Long Island is bracing for a major snowstorm, the first of the season, expected to roll over the tristate Wednesday night into Thursday, bringing winds gusts of 45 mph and as much as a foot-and-a-half of snow in some areas.

The National Weather Service said Nassau County, and western Suffolk could see between 12 and 18 inches of snow beginning around 4 p.m. with parts of eastern Suffolk County receiving at least 4-8 inches. Snow is expected to fall at a rate of 1-2 inches an hour Wednesday night, the weather service said.

But Long Island's snow totals remain uncertain because of the potential for sleet mixing with the snow if the storm tracks closer to the coast.

Temperatures will dip into the mid-20s as the snow begins to pick up in late Wednesday evening, while heavy snow will continue Thursday morning, the weather service said. Minor to moderate coasting flooding is also possible.

"Travel could be very difficult to impossible," the weather service said in an advisory late Monday. "Hazardous conditions could impact the Wednesday evening and Thursday morning commutes. Gusty winds could bring down tree branches."

Long Island officials said they were closely monitoring the storm and preparing for its potential impact.

"Our supplies are stocked and the county’s salt domes are full with 21,400 tons of road salt on hand and 850 tons of road sand," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. "Our [Department of Public Works] crews are ready and the trucks are gassed up and prepared to hit the roads to pretreat and plow when necessary."

NICE Bus officials said the storm will create low visibility and dangerous road conditions, leading to road closures, delays and significant travel disruptions for both fixed route and Able-Ride service customers, particularly on the North Shore and in flood-prone areas.

Service disruptions could continue through Friday morning as snow plowing operations continue after the storm has passed, NICE said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said DPW crews will be out in full force pretreating roads and spreading salt and brine to combat any icing.

"But our message for residents is simple: Please use extreme caution while driving as there is the potential for a layer of snow/ice on the roads," Bellone said, adding that the county's heavy-duty vehicles are ready to be deployed to clear county roads.

But before the storm, sunny skies are expected to return Tuesday morning with temperatures nearing 40 and wind chills between the 20s and 30s, the weather service said. Clouds will move into the area late in the day in anticipation of Wednesday's storm.

With John Valenti

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