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First snowstorm of 2018 targets New York region as even colder air looms

NEW YORK — In a one-two punch of brutal winter weather, a snowstorm could slam the New York region later this week, followed by the coldest air thus far in this relentless arctic outbreak.

The first snowstorm of 2018 could dump half a foot of snow or more on Long Island and wreak havoc on Thursday’s commutes. Storm watches are already up for Suffolk County and much of New Jersey for snow beginning Wednesday night.

Heavy snow and strong winds are expected Thursday, but the accumulations will depend greatly on how close the storm tracks to the coast off New York and New Jersey.

The storm is developing parallel to the Florida and Georgia coasts and will morph into a powerful Atlantic storm as it moves north. As of Tuesday afternoon, the system appears to be tracking slightly closer to the East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, which could mean higher accumulations for our region.

The major forecast computer models disagree about what course the storm will ultimately take.

The most dramatic model is calling for 4 inches of snow in the city and up to 10 inches on eastern Long Island. But other models suggest a gentler storm, with 2 inches of snow in the city and 4 to 5 inches on Long Island.

For the moment, PIX11 News’ Weather Center is calling for at least 1 to 3 inches of snow in the five boroughs, with 3 to 6 inches of accumulation on eastern Long Island and the Jersey Shore.

Weather alerts in NY and NJ

A winter storm watch has been issued for Suffolk County, portions of central and southern New Jersey, and portions of southeast Connecticut starting late Wednesday through Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

The alert for Suffolk County and southeast Connecticut warns of snow accumulations between 5 and 8 inches, and the timing of the storm could make for “difficult travel” during the morning and evening commutes on Thursday.

In central and southern New Jersey, the alert warns of about 4 to 6 inches of snow, with the storm making for dangerous travel during the Thursday morning commute.

In addition to heavy snow, strong winds will pose a threat, with 30 to 40 mph gusts Thursday afternoon and evening. Those powerful gusts could cause blowing and drifting snow, significantly reducing visibility.

In the five boroughs, a snow alert has been issued starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The alert — issued by the city, not the National Weather Service — means the Department of Sanitation is preparing its salt spreaders, plows and tire chains in case they’re needed.

Even colder temps ahead

After the snow moves out late Thursday, the weekend brings with it the potential for more dangerous cold, the most intense of this unforgiving winter season.

Temperatures will struggle to get out of the single digits to lower teens Friday into Saturday, with wind chills of -10 to -20 degrees early Friday and -15 to -25 degrees Saturday morning.

Daily highs haven’t risen above 32 degrees since Christmas Day, according to the National Weather Service. There’s a chance that the area could approach the record for most consecutive days with high temperatures being below freezing, the weather service said.

The longest stretch on record of below-freezing temperatures was 16 days, set back in 1961.