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LI has growing chance of ‘impactful winter storm,’ experts say

Salt spreader and plows ready at the Department

Salt spreader and plows ready at the Department of Public Works Yard in Commack on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. Credit: James Carbone

Computer forecast models may have been in early agreement that a significant winter storm is in the works for Friday into Saturday for the East Coast.

But, when you get down to the nitty-gritty details as to snowfall amounts and locations of rain/snow lines, some model squabbling was still going on.

“Right now we are still in the fuzzy zone,” said Bill Korbel, News 12 Long Island meteorologist. “Details of path, strength and especially snow amounts generally do not get clear enough to be realistic until a couple of days before the storm at the earliest.

What is clear is that the system, plunging down from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf of Mexico, is expected “to strengthen rapidly as it reaches the East Coast,” the National Weather Service’s Upton office said. The system was looking to track to the south and east of Long Island on Friday night into Saturday, possibly stalling before a Sunday departure, said Kevin Kacan, National Weather Service meteorologist based in Upton.

For Long Islanders, the message is for an increasing chance of an “impactful winter storm” and that “it’s not too early to start planning ahead,” said Tim Morrin, National Weather Service meteorologist based in Upton.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county was prepared to plow county roads ahead of the first major snowstorm of the year.

“We’ve been extremely lucky this year,” he said at a frosty outdoor news conference. “It appears our luck is running out.”

Suffolk has 25,000 pounds of salt on hand and six new pieces of heavy snow removal equipment the county bought for $1.8 million since last winter.

Still, Bellone urged drivers to be cautious, noting police see a spike in accidents during the first snowstorm of the year.

Bellone held the news conference Tuesday afternoon in front of a giant pile of salt at the windswept Commack Department of Public Works Yard.

He urged residents to check on friends and neighbors and keep pets’ walks to no longer than 15 minutes.

As of Tuesday, Long Island was in the “snow likely” area of a map for 7 a.m. Saturday issued by the Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, a track more to the south could mean less snow, and a more westward route could mean a possible wintry mix or all sleet and rain for the East End, the weather service said.

A hazardous weather outlook was issued for Long Island, warning of “growing potential for a major winter storm Friday night into Sunday.” That could mean “heavy snow, strong winds and significant coastal flooding.”

Potential threats to the region can include the chance of: widespread snowfall accumulations of six inches or more; 30 to 40 mph winds, with gusts of 50 to 60 mph; and widespread moderate tidal flooding Saturday through Saturday night, which brings a full moon.

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