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Winter storm watch for Long Island; up to 8 inches of snow possible

A snowplow clears the road as a man

A snowplow clears the road as a man waits for a bus on Hillside Avenue in New Hyde Park on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Plows and operators are ready to clear Long Island roads of a potential 4 to 8 inches of snow as a winter storm watch takes effect from midnight Wednesday to 6 a.m. Friday, the National Weather Service said.

An additional 32 plows are being deployed to the area from the state Thruway Authority and upstate regions, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said. "The region is fully loaded with 30,000 tons of salt," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Long Island Rail Road said she expected regular preparations would be initiated in advance of the storm, such as spraying passenger train door panels with an antifreeze agent, activating switch heaters in Jamaica and putting salt on platforms.

Also getting ready is PSEG-Long Island, which is fueling trucks and checking electrical system equipment, said a spokeswoman. "We're monitoring the storm," she said, and that will determine staffing needs.

Look for treacherous travel conditions Thursday, as snow develops after midnight Wednesday across the Island, mixes with rain during the day Thursday, and switches back to snow, the weather service said.

Such a watch means there's potential for "significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations," the service said. Forecasters said the storm's exact track and intensity were still uncertain last evening.

Several inches of snow, 2 to 5 inches, could accumulate into tomorrow's morning rush before a changeover about 8 to 9 a.m. to a rain-snow mix for most of the Island, said Peter Wichrowski, weather service meteorologist in Upton. There's a higher probability for snowfall to linger closer to New York City, he said.

While there's considerable uncertainty as to the changeover, with much depending on how much warm air enters the upper atmosphere, he said, we are looking at a nor'easter, "a strong coastal storm and strong northeasterly winds."

By 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, that mix is expected to turn back to snow, dropping possibly "another couple of inches," he said.

Snow was expected to start tapering off overnight Thursday, clearing the area by around 6 a.m. Friday.

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