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Winter storm watch Thursday for Long Island; 5 to 8 inches possible

Another band of heavy snow falls on the

Another band of heavy snow falls on the eastbound service road of the LIE in Dix Hills, making driving conditions treacherous. (Dec. 17, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

The first snowstorm of the year is expected to hit Long Island Thursday, dumping about a half-foot of powder and putting the region in a deep freeze for several days.

The National Weather Service is predicting 5 to 8 inches of snow starting Thursday morning, peaking around the evening commute and tapering off early Friday.

The storm will be accompanied by winds gusting to 40 mph, said David Stark, a meteorologist with the weather service in Upton.

The heaviest accumulations will be in eastern Suffolk, Stark said.

A winter storm watch has been issued for the region from Thursday evening through 6 p.m. Friday. Temperatures are forecast to drop Thursday night into the midteens, with highs staying below freezing until Sunday.

Town, railroad and utility crews were preparing on New Year's Eve for the storm, stocking up on emergency supplies, inspecting plow trucks and salt spreaders and lining up extra crews.

PSEG-Long Island, which formally takes over LIPA's grid Wednesday, was bracing for heavy snow, spokesman Jeff Weir said.

The utility was readying its fleet of trucks and extra utility poles were ordered to help crews respond quickly to downed lines, he said.

The Long Island Rail Road began preparing for snow and extreme cold. Switch heaters will be working, an antifreeze-spreading train deployed and plows pre-positioned, LIRR officials said.

No service changes were announced as of Tuesday night.

Across the Island, authorities were concerned about falling temperatures, with forecasters saying the wind chill could make Friday night feel like it's below zero.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said 14 warming centers will be open Thursday and Friday, and possibly later, to help people cope with the cold.

"Our crews are making final preparations for the upcoming storm, and neighbors should also prepare by doing their shopping and fueling vehicles before the snowfall starts," Murray said in a statement.

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