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Long Island weather: Worst of Nor’easter sees delayed arrival

Officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties are preparing for possible power outages, coastal flooding and clearing roadways.

Newsday staff filmed and compiled scenes across Long Island and Penn Station on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, as the fourth nor'easter of the month was expected to dump 6 to 12 inches of snow. (Credit: Newsday / Staff)

For Long Islanders who were bracing all day for stormy weather, the region’s fourth nor’easter in three weeks took its time.

But many residents were simply ready to be done with winter weather.

The recent rapid succession of nor’easters has left Lindsay Jones, 35, a teacher at Babylon High School, apathetic.

“I’m kind of over it, to be honest,” she said. “Definitely ready for spring.”

By Wednesday night, the heaviest snowfall measured a bit more than 5 inches, but was nothing compared to the 15 inches forecasters had predicted only earlier in the day. Still, the weather watchers said the storm had more to offer — 4 to 8 inches more overnight, possibly interfering with the morning commute.

The weather service warned that moderate to heavy snow banding would pass through the Island , and snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour could making driving difficult overnight.

Some Long Island schools announced delayed start times for Thursday.

Brian Ciemnecki, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said earlier Wednesday the arrival of heavy snow bands is when “things go downhill,” and “the bulk of the snow” was yet to come.

A trend took hold along the shores of Long Island on Wednesday: North Shore communities had gotten up to 5 inches by 7 p.m. while South Shore locations barely hosted two inches, said Jay Engle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton.

Some Long Islanders took the time to enjoy what they hoped was the last snowstorm of the season. Clea Bowdery, 38, was taking a walk through her Port Washington neighborhood Wednesday night.

“It’s quiet and it’s beautiful, and it’s the last snowstorm of the season,” Bowdery said, quickly adding, “I shouldn’t say that.”

Snowfall totals reported late Wednesday afternoon varied from 5.4 inches in Manhasset and 1.2 inches in East Rockaway to 4.8 inches in Sound Beach and 1 inch in Patchogue.

But the delayed arrival of the brunt of the storm all but left some Long Islanders feeling duped.

Jimmy Caulfield expected the worst as he was leaving his job in Douglaston at 3 p.m. to drive home to Massapequa Park.

“They were saying it was going to be really bad” at 3 p.m., Caulfield said as he took a break from shoveling. “But the roads were clear. It was all blacktop. The highway was empty.”

With far fewer cars than usual on the roads, he got home earlier than usual, he said.

Caulfield’s 15-year-old son, a student at Massapequa High School, was home on a snow day, but, with accumulation perhaps only an inch or two at that point, “I think the kids probably could have gone to school today,” he said.

All 56 school systems in Nassau County canceled classes for the entire day Wednesday, while the great majority of Suffolk’s 68 districts opted to dismiss students early.

Officials had been singing the same song of an onslaught of snow all day, urging residents to stay off the roads in anticipation of the arrival of heavy bands of snow later in the night.

Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency in Nassau and Suffolk counties, as light to moderate snow had spread over much of Long Island, and was expected to intensify, forecasters said.

Local officials also had urged residents to stay off the roads and to take the storm seriously, despite it getting off to a slow start Wednesday morning.

“It’ll be very treacherous for cars driving,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a Wednesday morning news conference. “We’ll be preparing for whatever comes.”

In Suffolk, more than 200 vehicles will be available for snow removal and crews will be working throughout the night, Bellone said.

County Executive Laura Curran said 150 county employees were responding to the storm and warming centers had opened. Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said early Wednesday the town was preparing to get into “full response mode” once the snow really gets underway.

A winter storm warning remained in effect through 6 a.m. Thursday for Nassau and western Suffolk, and to 8 a.m. Thursday for eastern Suffolk, the weather service said.

But experts also downgraded the threat of coastal flooding Wednesday, along Nassau’s south shore, saying “minor coastal impacts are expected with tonight’s high tide.”

The storm was expected to bring 20 to 30 mph winds with gusts up to 45 mph and isolated gusts up to 50 mph on the East End, the weather service said.

Those winds and heavy snow could bring down tree limbs and power lines, meaning more power outages for the area. By 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, PSEG was reporting only 70 outages.

Long before the brunt of the storm, travel was feeling its impact with hundreds of flights canceled at area airports, county buses delayed or out of service, and the Long Island Rail Road seeing some delays and cancellations.

In Babylon, Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer was already looking ahead to Thursday morning’s commute.

“If that snow is overnight, expect a messy time tomorrow,” Schaffer said. “The good thing is it’s March — it’s the second day of spring, allegedly, and hopefully this will be the last storm.”

With Zachary R. Dowdy, Lisa Irizarry, Jesse Coburn, Robert Brodsky, and John Hildebrand

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