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Update: Strong winds to continue challenging highway crews overnight

Update 7:15 p.m.: Southold Highway Superintendent Vincent Orlando said crews will be working into the wee hours overnight, getting sand and salt on the roads. Another band of snow is expected to arrive around 10 p.m., and the highway department will be using its military surplus 10-wheel drive truck, dubbed “The Beast,” he said.

Strong winds will continue to pose a challenge overnight and on Friday, building up snow drifts, especially where snow will be picked up off open spaces around town.

“The wind’s gonna make it look like it’s constantly snowing,” Mr. Orlando said. The highway department will continue to fight the wind throughout the day Friday, he said.

The National Weather Service reported a wind gust of 52 mph was recorded in Orient at 3:30 p.m., 50 mph in Peconic at 1:05 p.m. and 48 mph in Cutchogue at 4:18 p.m.

Update 6 p.m.: Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell declared a State of Emergency for Southold Town that began at 1 p.m. Use of all roads within the town is prohibited during the declaration, except for essential staff like medical personnel.

Vehicles parked in a position that impede police, fire or highway department personnel will be towed at the owner’s expense, according to Southold police.

“Heavy snow, cold temperatures, flooding conditions and strong winds are making town roads impassable and dangerous for all motorists,” a press release said.

Southold Town will also operate on Friday with a two-hour delay, according to the supervisor’s office.

Update 4:25 p.m.: Even after the blizzard passes, wicked weather will remain. The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory that begins at 1 a.m. Friday and will be in effect until 10 a.m. Saturday.

“The cold wind chills will cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes to exposed skin,” the report states.

Starting Thursday night, wind chills are expected to range from 0 to -20 degrees, the NWS said. Strong wind gusts up to 55 mph will remain throughout Friday, causing white-out conditions.

As of 3:15 p.m., 11.7 inches of snow were reported in Mattituck, according to a NWS trained spotter.

Update, 1:40 p.m.: Conditions on the North Fork are deteriorating. Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said that there is now flooding along Route 48, by Albertson Lane, in Greenport, and a portion of it is being closed to traffic.

“The high tides have breached the houses along the Sound and 2 to 3 feet of water and debris from the Sound is across Rt. 48,” Chief Flatley said in an email at about 1:20 p.m.

“We are currently shutting down Rt. 48 between Chapel Lane and Boisseau Ave. until the tide recedes in about another hour or so, hopefully,” he said.

A power outage in Southold has left 300 customers without power. A transformer blew, the chief said, in the area of Route 48 in Southold.

Over 3,000 customers have been left without power due to downed wires and trees due to whipping winds and heavy snowfall.

Update, 1:15 p.m.: About 230 customers are without power Thursday afternoon as gusty winds continue to pound the North Fork, according to the PSEG-Long Island outage map.

Two outages in Peconic have left 180 customers without power. Meanwhile, 34 customers in Orient and 15 in Mattituck are still without power. Crews are responding and PSEG-Long Island said power will be restored between 7 and 9 p.m.

Update, 12: 50 p.m.: An outage in Orient has left 34 PSEG-Long Island customers without power early Thursday afternoon.

Crews are en route to assess the problem, but PSEG-Long Island estimated power would be restored by 7:15 p.m. It was not immediately clear what caused the outage.  The outage is one of 90 on Long Island; nearly 3,000 customers are without power. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph are being reported.

Update, 12:40 p.m.: Southold Town Highway Superintendent Vincent Orlando said his crews are busy plowing snow, while the snow continues to fall.

“It’s pretty much status quo but the plowing is slower than usual because visibility is down due to the winds,” Mr. Orlando said.

He added that since the wind is strong, it is hard to estimate the amount of snow that has fallen so far.

“The wind is blowing so hard, it’s not coming down straight but I’d say we have about 6 or 7 inches,” he said.

Update 11:30 a.m.: From the National Weather Service in Upton, meteorologists said they believe the North Fork will get 10 to 15 inches of snow.

John Criscantello said that the snow is expected to taper off at the earliest late afternoon, but more likely sometime after sunset. He said the heaviest snow will most likely be done by late afternoon.

While 7.4 inches of snow was the latest snow total available in Riverhead, Mr. Criscantello said around 11 a.m., it “wouldn’t shock me if it now 8-9 inches in and around the area of Riverhead.”

Update, 10:45 a.m.: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state emergency for all of Long Island as the powerful coast storm has brought blizzard conditions to the area.  A blizzard warning remains in effect for all of Suffolk County.

According to the latest snow totals from the National Weather Service at 10:10 a.m., 7.4 inches had fallen so far in Riverhead. A total of 14 inches is expected to fall on the North Fork before the storm is over.

A snowy scene in Greenport at daybreak. Credit: Grant Parpan

Update, 9:45 a.m.: Roads are not looking good in Southold Town this morning.

“Visibility on the road is nil to none and is only going to get magnified when it gets darker tonight,” said Southold Town Highway Superintendent Vincent Orlando. “If you don’t have to go out today, please don’t.”

High winds, which could exceed 55 mph and cause “whiteout conditions” are the biggest hindrance in cleaning up the roads.

“The biggest thing we’re fighting is the wind, not the amount of snow falling,” Mr. Orlando said. “We can plow the road and then two hours later it looks like we never did it. We just have to keep pushing it off.”

Areas with farmland experience the most snow drift, because the snow is able to get blown right back onto the road and is not blocked by houses, he said.

The highway department started sanding and salting roads early this morning, around 6 a.m., Mr. Orlando said. After that, the plows were sent out to start cleaning up the roads. Plowing will continue throughout the day.

As of now, there are no trees down and no road closures, but Mr. Orlando warned that “the day is young.”

“Luckily, the snow is light so it won’t make the trees really heavy and doesn’t stick to the trees, but some older trees may come down,” he said. “If that’s the case we will push them to the side and clean up Monday.”

Southold officials have placed one homeless man who had been staying in a Maureen’s Haven shelter in the town Human Resource Center in Mattituck, according to Police Chief Martin Flatley.

Update, 9:17 a.m.: At about 9 a.m., heavy snow was falling over Long Island and moving northwest at near 50 mph, according to a special weather statement. Frequent gusts of 40 to 45 mph are expected throughout the day with occasional gusts up to 55 mph.

Power outages are possible. As of 9:15 a.m., there was only one on the North Fork, in Mattituck, where less than 5 customers were without power, according to the PSEG-Long Island outage map.

The roads are slick and visibilities reduced to less than a quarter of a mile. Travel is not recommended. There were multiple reports of vehicles getting stuck.

Lightning is also possible, according to the National Weather Service.

Original Story, 7:20 a.m.: Snow fell slowly overnight, but forecasters are still calling for over a foot of snow to fall on parts of Long Island with dangerous blizzard conditions Thursday.

A strengthening coastal storm will dump 8 to 14 inches and bring minor coastal flooding to the East End, the National Weather Service said. A small amount of snow fell on the North Fork overnight with a wintery mix and hale reported in Greenport at daybreak.

But, the snow is expected to be heavy at times, starting around 8 a.m., and fall fast with rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour at times throughout the day. A blizzard warning remains in effect in Suffolk County until Friday at 1 a.m.

Meteorologists said conditions will deteriorate rapidly and travel conditions during the morning and evening commutes could be dangerous. Winds are already picking up and gusts are expected to exceed 55 mph, causing “whiteout conditions” and significant drifting. Scattered power outages and downed trees are possible.

Winds began to pick up around 8 a.m. by the New Suffolk School. Credit: Grant Parpan

Schools on the North Fork canceled classes for Thursday, and Southold Town facilities, include the transfer station and Town Hall, are closed. Emergency shelters were to open at 9 a.m. in two locations; the Peconic Lane Community Center at 1170 Peconic Lane in Peconic and the Human Resource Center at 750 Pacific Street in Mattituck for special needs individuals. Residents in Southold Town and Greenport Village have been asked to move their vehicles off the street.

Greenport Village offices have also been closed.

Suffolk transit buses have been canceled for Thursday and the Hampton Jitney suspended its morning and afternoon trips between the East End and Manhattan. The Long Island Rail Road was expected to run normal service.

A coastal flood advisory is also in effect for southern and eastern bays on Long Island from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday. Tides are 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet above normal. Shallow flooding is possible in vulnerable areas along the shore. Ice covered waters in Peconic and Great South Bays will increase the chance for damage to docks and bulkheads, the NWS said.

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Photo caption: Snow is drifting across vineyard fields in Cutchogue. (Credit: Steve Wick)