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A slushy and icy Tuesday on Long Island could mean a messy Wednesday commute

By nightfall, the temperature was back above freezing but Wednesday's forecast calls for early rain mixed with snow flurries before a warm up into the mid 40s.

After a slushy, icy Tuesday, Long Islanders can expect early rain and flurries Wednesday, forecasters said. (Credit: Newsday / Victor Manuel Ramos; Barry Sloan)

A slushy mix of snow on Long Island Tuesday led to hazardous road conditions, school closures, flight cancellations by the hundreds, and a likely messy Wednesday morning commute. 

After sunset, temperatures had risen just above freezing but heavy rain was expected to continue overnight, with a possible dusting of additional flurries early Wednesday, said Melissa Di Spigna, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton. Wednesday is expected to be mostly cloudy, with a high near 44.

While the snow totals were relatively tepid — topping out at 3.4 inches in Mattituck — the storm's effect was far-reaching.

“It’s not a big snow maker but the big story with this storm will be the impact,” said News 12 Long Island meteorologist Pat Cavlin. 

As snow turned to freezing rain early Tuesday afternoon, roadways became slick, leaving an icy glaze on road surfaces, said Tim Morrin, another meteorologist with the weather service's Upton headquarters.

Suffolk police responded to 233 traffic crashes between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., abnormally high for a typical day, while Nassau police reported "tons" of accidents across the county but declined to say how many. 

State Police Maj. David Candelaria said troopers responded to more than 50 vehicle accidents and disabled vehicles during the snowstorm. 

“It’s very, very treacherous out there,” Candelaria said at a news conference in Farmingdale. 

Despite the conditions, stalwart Long Islanders ventured out for errands or work.

“C’mon, we’re New Yorkers,” said Pat Trost, 63, of North Babylon, as she headed out to buy a gift. “It’s not so bad.”

As soon as Noah Palmer stepped off the bus, the snow and cold wind started its assault. The chill made its way into his lungs and stung his bare hands.

That was just the beginning, as the Freeport maintenance worker knew he had a good half-hour walk down Route 110 to make it to his job in Farmingdale.

“It’s something I have to do,” said Palmer, 42, who has no car.

A few flakes and slippery streets didn't keep contractors from stopping for supplies at a Home Depot in Farmingdale.

“We gotta do what we gotta do,” said Alejandro Villaharrera, 37, of Brentwood, as he loaded a propane heater into his vehicle to warm a house where his crew of four was working. “Gotta put food on the table for the family.”

Not far away, Conrad Guttenberer, a painting and construction contractor, was making the best of the day, picking up long two-by-fours to build a basement closet.

“If you don’t work," he said, "you don’t get paid."

The Long Island Rail Road, which added three extra afternoon trains to accommodate those leaving work early because of the storm, reported no service problems during the evening rush hour, a spokesman said.

LaGuardia Airport reported more than 500 cancellations Tuesday while Kennedy Airport reported nearly 300, according to Flight Aware, a tracking website.

Meanwhile, dozens of school districts across the region closed or delayed classes and canceled after-school activities because of the storm.

Thursday, Valentine's Day, is expected to be mostly sunny, with a high near 43.

With Joan Gralla

Long Island’s no-snow rundown

December, warmer and wetter than normal, delivered just a trace of snow. The normal for the month is 5.4 inches at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.

January, slightly warmer than normal, turned in a meager 0.9 inches of snow, well below the average 6.7 inches.

February traditionally has taken the crown for snow producer of the year. Even with an early arctic blast, the month as of day-end Sunday saw zero inches of snowfall at the airport. The normal total for the month is 7.1 inches.

The only memorable recent snowfall came all the way back on Nov. 15, when several inches fell in some spots — instead of the expected coating to an inch — right around the evening rush.

Given the timing and lack of treated roadways, the ensuing “snow jam will go down as a day that will live in Long Island traffic infamy,” as one Newsday writer put it.

—Patricia Kitchen

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