Long Island blizzard

What a difference a day makes.

After a balmy, spring-like Wednesday, Long Islanders woke up Thursday to what is likely to be the biggest storm of the season.

Overnight, the National Weather Service said a blizzard warning was in effect for the entire Island—previously it was just Suffolk County—and upped its snowfall projections to a foot and a half. By daybreak, a sheet of snow was on the ground.

The blizzard warning is in effect until 6 p.m. The weather service warned that accumulation of up to 18 inches is possible and that whiteout conditions caused by drifting snow is likely. Such a scenario makes for dangerous driving conditions, the weather service said.

Rapid snowfall mingled with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour means visibility of a quarter mile or less at times, forecasters said. Conditions deteriorated in Suffolk County so quick that County Executive Steve Bellone declared a state of emergency.

In other words: stay off the roads.

Forecasters said “rapid deterioration” would begin at daybreak and continue until about noon.

Aside from heavy snow, Long Islanders will have to contend with temperatures dipping into the 20s and evening temperatures in the teens, with wind chill values in the single digits.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urged residents to remain home and allow plow operators to do their jobs. “Don’t make it more difficult for them to clear what is a major snow storm,” he said.

“We are out in full force on the roadways with every piece of equipment we’ve got,” Bellone added.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said 911 call volume was “slightly above average” and that police had already responded to 18 vehicle incidents.

“These roads are bad and they’re only going to get worse,” Sini said.

Nassau County police counted 19 accidents Thursday morning and several other spinouts and aided motorists.

The most significant incident was a tractor trailer crash involving multiple vehicles near Exit 33 of the Long Island Expressway that caused the shutdown of the westbound lanes, officials said. The cause of the crash was still unclear.

“If you don’t have to be on the roadway please don’t take to the roadway,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges in October. “Obviously it is treacherous conditions.”

The county executive noted that the state is monitoring conditions on the LIE, which has been shut down in the past during major snowstorms. Mangano said the county typically is against closing the LIE because traffic is then diverted to interior roadways that plow operators are treating.

For commuters determined to head to work, the Long Island Rail Road was operating nine less trains than usual due to derailed non-passenger train at Jamaica station on Wednesday. By mid-morning the railroad was reporting system-wide delays of up to 30 minutes.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that the LIRR and other MTA systems would deploy plows and other snow-fighting equipment to tackle the storm.

The storm prompted school and municipal service cancellations across the Island.

Officials urged residents with health issues, especially heart problems, to refrain from shoveling or using snow blowers.

This powerful storm comes one day after a record high of 62 degrees was recorded in Islip, making for an unseasonably warm day.

“Obviously we went from beach to blizzard day,” Mangano joked.

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