Long Islanders are facing the latest in a series of nor’easters to impact the area, with Wednesday’s brewing as a wintry mix set to switch to snow, heavy at times, by later morning, forecasters say.
Most of the Island is forecast to see 12 to 15 inches of snow — even up to 18 inches in some localized spots — with the Twin Forks looking at more like a possible 6 to 8 and the wintry mix possibly persisting longer there, the National Weather Service said.
Light rain and snow was reported at Long Island MacArthur Airport shortly before 7 a.m., with winds from the northeast gusting to 36 mph.
Areas of the Island saw sleet overnight, with reports of light snow shortly before 5 a.m., said Melissa DiSpigna, National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton.
Look for all snow to develop, she said, becoming more intense as the morning progresses, ultimately with near-blizzard conditions in the picture for areas.
The recommendation for later in the morning: “People not to be on the roads any more,” she said.
Indeed, travel is to become “very difficult to impossible, especially for the evening commute,” the weather service said.
A winter storm warning remains in effect for the Island until 6 a.m. Thursday, warning of “significant reductions in visibility at times.”
The heaviest snowfall rates of 1 to 3 inches an hour, seen at times during bands of heavy snow, can be expected to lead to whiteout conditions, the weather service said.
Expect 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.
Look for a “light wintry mix and snow this morning,” with precipitation increasing in the afternoon and the heaviest snow expected particularly from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., said Rich Hoffman, News 12 Long Island meteorologist.
That means dangerous going for the evening commute, he said, given the “heavy snow and strong winds with near blizzard conditions.”
Those winds and heavy snow could be bringing down tree limbs and power lines, meaning more power outages for the area.
There’s also potential for thunder snow with any heavy bands, Hoffman said, referring to thunder and lightening that can accompany snowfall instead of rain.
Minor to locally moderate coastal flooding is expected around high-tide times on Wednesday, with any moderate flooding most likely for the South Shore back bays of Nassau and Southwestern Suffolk, and floodwaters rising 1 to 3 feet above ground in vulnerable areas, the weather service said.
The Long Island Rail Road — operating normally as of 5 a.m. — said it was positioning snow-fighting equipment and antifreeze trains to prevent ice buildup, but riders should anticipate delays and avoid travel, if possible. The railroad may have to suspend service temporarily for snow-clearing activity if accumulations reach 10 or more inches.
Hundreds of public and private schools across Long Island announced closures ahead of the storm on Wednesday.
Nassau Inter-County Express said that bus riders should expect “heavy delays” and possible service suspensions if road conditions become dangerous.
Suffolk County bus service and SCAT will not operate Wednesday, the agency said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone warned in an interview shortly after 6:30 a.m. Wednesday that the early morning weather will be deceiving.
“The timing of this storm couldn’t be worse,” Bellone said. “People getting up in the morning could easily look out the door, get in their car and go about their day.”
He said that at “a rapid rate” of snow falling 1 to 3 inches an hour, “cars get stuck with that rate of snowfall happening quickly. We’re urging people to monitor the forecast closely. It’s clear now” but he said that by the afternoon, “cars should be off the road.”
In Nassau County, Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said early Wednesday that the town was preparing to get into “full response mode” once the snow really gets underway.
“We’re getting our plows ready for when it’s appropriate,” Gillen said. She said there are 1,200 miles of roadway in the town and that three different departments will be working on snow removal.
Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said he’s concerned about flooding with high tide on the North Shore in town expected at 2:50 p.m.
“We’ll be watching that very closely,” Saldino said. He said bay constables will have boats ready for people stranded in high water on streets or in their homes.
“This one is going to be more serious,” Saladino said, comparing the storm to the previous three.
Saladino asked people with snowblowers to blow the snow back toward their property to keep it off public roadways and warned that running generators inside such as in garages, is “recipe for death” from carbon monoxide poisoning.
PSEG Long Island was reporting fewer than five customer outages at 5 a.m., but said it’s prepared for the storm. Heavy snow and wind can take down power lines and cause outages.
“We are monitoring the approaching storm, our emergency preparedness plans are activated, and in the event of outages our crews are ready to begin once again to restore service safely and as quickly as conditions allow,” John O’Connell, vice president of Transmission and Distribution at PSEG Long Island, said in a statement.
The Port Authority said hundreds of flights scheduled for Wednesday at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports have been canceled, while MacArthur Airport said airlines canceled multiple flights Tuesday evening and through the day Wednesday. Amtrak said it will operate on a modified service on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s coastal storm, the fourth this month, will elevate the Island’s already above-normal snowfall levels. Long Island MacArthur Airport, so far, is well above the 4.5 inches that’s normal for the entire month, thanks to those earlier nor’easters that dropped most of the 13.5 inches that have been recorded as of day-end Monday. That’s still a ways off, though, from the snowfall record for the month, 23.3 inches, set in 1967, according to Northeast Regional Climate Center data.
One of the factors leading to this steady march of coastal storms is an area of high pressure over Greenland that’s blocking the path of the jet stream, “causing it to track across the Northeast, bringing storms with it,” said Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center, based at Cornell University.
With Mark Harrington and Lisa Irizarry