Forget the bread and milk aisles. Vodka and wine may be better barometers of unease over wintry weather, because alcohol sales were as hot as a toddy Wednesday after forecasters uttered three four-letter words: snow, rain and cold.
“We were hopping today, which was pretty good for a week day,” said Jessica Shinnick, general manager of Stew Leonard’s Wines and Spirits of Farmingdale. “I think people are getting afraid of snowed-in without any wine. If it’s going to be heavy snow, I think a lot of people will buy vodka because they can sort of just stick the bottle right in the snow while shoveling to chill it down.”
Forecasters say the season’s first sampling of snow will hit around midday Thursday, perhaps resulting in some aggravation when a mix of snow and sleet changes to rain during the evening commute.
The day is expected to start cold, as temperatures plummet to the mid-20s in the early hours, far from the average low of 37 for Nov. 15, the National Weather Service said. The day’s high will be 37 degrees. Wind gusts of up to 44 mph are also predicted for Thursday night.
Snow and possibly sleet will first appear in the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. range for Long Island, except for parts east of the William Floyd Parkway, where higher temperatures will result in just rain, said meteorologist John Murray in the service’s Upton office. By late afternoon, there will be sleet and rain, then plain rain by 8 p.m. and into Friday morning, he said.
With the ground not cold enough to allow for much accumulation, we're looking at less than an inch of snow, Murray said. The evening commute can be expected to be wet, with roads slick from rainfall and melted snow.
Long Island could see ¾ to 1½ inches of rain, the weather service said.
The rain is expected to end about 11 a.m. Friday, but it will be windy, with gusts of up to 40 mph, meteorologists said. The service also issued a gale warning for winds of up to 54 mph on the waters off Long Island from 4 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday.
Snow in November is early, and although it’s just an inch, Murray said, people still have to get acclimated because the last time the white stuff fell on Long Island was on April 2, when 4.6 inches coated Islip.
“The first one of the season is always more noticeable than later on, especially for November,” Murray said. “We’re talking about a month here, November, that you typically don’t see a lot of snow.”
Jonathan Bosley, 30, said he was not looking forward to it.
“Hopefully it’s not the first of many,” said Bosley, en route to the LIRR Wednesday from his IT job in Melville to his home in Queens.
Acknowledging the expected lack of snow accumulation and other accompanying drama, he said with a smile that he would stock up on some cereal for his daughter and some drinks, maybe some wine, “just in case I get trapped for the weekend.”
In Brookhaven Town, salt trucks were ready in case they needed to roll over the 3,600 miles of lanes, but highway superintendent Daniel Losquadro said he’s not nervous about the early first snow. He figures the temperature of the asphalt, which holds residual heat from the day, will be too much for snow to survive and he’s not even preteating roads.
“There’s no sense in pretreating anything because you have a mix of rain and snow, so anything we put on the road will be washed away anyway,” Losquadro said.
PSEG Long Island said a “full complement of personnel” will be on hand to repair any lines downed by trees, wind and snow. Crews have already performed checks on critical systems and stocked up on critical supplies, utility officials said.
As Long Island awaited its first white coating, Fay Scally of Old Bethpage was in fall mode, raking leaves and hoping the forecasters are wrong because she drives all over as a hospice nurse.
“It doesn’t sound like it’s going to be terrible,” said Scally, 69. “I’m just hoping I’ll be able to get home from work safely. That’s my goal for the day.”
- 1/2 inch: Normal snowfall for the month.
- 7.6 inches: Amount that fell on Thanksgiving 1989 at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.
- Oct. 29, 2011: The earliest the airport has seen any measurable snow.
- Nov. 2, 2012: The earliest an inch or more has fallen (1.7 inches).
- Dec. 24: Average date to see the first inch of snow, going back to September 1963.
Sources: National Weather Service; Northeast Regional Climate Center, based at Cornell University