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Local Officials, Residents Prepare For Possibility Of Major Snowstorm, Flooding

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Concerns were building Wednesday night over the potential for some major snow, and possible flooding, for the Tri-State Area later in the week.

The weather system expected to come Saturday could potentially bring heavy snowfall to the Northeast, from Washington, D.C., to Boston. Late Wednesday, CBS2's Lonnie Quinn reported the models were beginning to agree that the storm would be a major event for Tri-State Area in particular.

The National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center was warning Wednesday of heavy, "perhaps crippling'' snow across the northern mid-Atlantic region, including the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia metro areas. 

Prediction center Meteorologist Rich Otto said these bigger cities could get 1 to 2 feet of snow, but first, the storm will bring ice and freezing rain to Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas on Thursday night into Friday.

As the storm moves east Friday, it will bring snow to West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. It may reach Philadelphia on Friday night and hit New York City, New Jersey and Long Island early Saturday as it moves north.

CBS2's Lonnie Quinn reported the storm was over Wichita, Kansas as of late Wednesday. It is expected to get some push from energy in the Rocky Mountains that will send it southeast toward the Gulf of Mexico.

There, it will most likely gather moisture and curve northward as it begins moving toward the Tri-State Area. 

Quinn said the Tri-State likely will not be in the bullseye for the storm. He said the more likely scenario has the Washington, D.C. area in the center of the storm, with the potential for 20 inches of accumulation or more.

Computer models for the forecast late Wednesday remained disparate. The GFS model only showed 7.1 inches for New York City, but the RPM Model called for 10 inches, and the European Model called for 11.7 inches of accumulation.

But the North American Model came in late Wednesday, and called for 23.6 inches of snow for New York City. Quinn said he does not think such totals are likely.

As of Wednesday, Quinn said he expects New York City and the immediate surrounding area will get hit with 4 to 8 inches of accumulation, with 8 to 12 inches to the south and west toward central New Jersey. Some parts of Staten Island may also end up in the 8- to 12-inch range.

The snow totals are highly dependent on where the rain-snow line ends up, and current models show it stretching in a northeasterly direction from central New Jersey through Long Island.

But the greater threat may not be snow so much as wind and waves that could cause coastal erosion. A full moon on Saturday will also be bad news for the Tri-State Area, when high tide comes during the 6 a.m. hour and the 7 p.m. hour on Saturday. The sea levels could reach 8 to 12 feet as a result.

The full moon will combine with strong, gusty winds. The forecast winds are only expected to reach 34 mph for New York City, but could hit 62 mph for Sea Bright, Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights on the Jersey Shore. A hurricane-force wind is 74 mph.

As a result of all the conditions, beach erosion and storm surge are a threat.

A winter storm watch was to be in effect from late Friday night through Sunday morning for all of central and southern New Jersey, as well as southeast Pennsylvania and the state of Delaware. Some counties near New York City are affected – including Monmouth, Middlesex, Somerset and Morris – but New York City, Long Island, upstate areas and far northern New Jersey are not.

A coastal flood watch was also issued for Saturday for Ocean County.

Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a winter weather public service annoucement on Wednesday that features the New York Islanders offering tips to New Yorkers on how to best prepare for winter weather.

Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito said that it was still too early to predict exactly what's to come this weekend, but it's a good idea to get New Yorkers prepared for a storm.

"I think people have just dealt with a really mild winter so they're not ready maybe for the snow," Esposito told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman.

OEM will coordinate their efforts with the Mayor's office, the Sanitation Department and the Department of Transportation, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported. 

New Yorkers told 1010 WINS' John Montone, they're getting ready for the possibility of some big snow.

"Extra clothing, shovel, the salt, extra hats, mittens, scarves," said Rebecca, of the Bronx.

"If it's a lot, we do have the snowblower prepared. If it's mild, we do have the shovels and the brooms. And if it's 4 feet, I'm staying indoors," said Enrico, of Baychester.

Officials out in Suffolk County said they're also prepared for whatever weather conditions Mother Nature brings this week, WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported.

The frigid temperatures and the threat of heavy snow has Suffolk's Department of Social Services reaching out to its homeless, urging them to seek shelter.

"We're here to serve the people, serve Suffolk County. So if anybody needs temporary housing, we will house them. We have space," said Social Services Commissioner John O'Neill.

Officials are also urging residents to check on their neighbors, especially the elderly and pets.

As for snow removal preparations, County Executive Steve Bellone said Suffolk is ready.

Meanwhile state parks crews are working to protect Long Island's vulnerable beaches from erosion.

"We have placed a number of cubic yards, hundreds of cubic yards on the beaches at Robert Moses State Park so that we would be prepared for a storm like this," said spokesman George Gorman.

"That's the worst kind of storm we could see cause that produces the most erosion," said.

Suffolk County police brought out their surplus Humvees, donated by the U.S. military, to be stationed at local police precints to help those who may get stranded in the storm, WLNY TV 10/55's Richard Rose reported.

"This vehicle can handle six inches of snow, a foot of snow, as if it were driving on dry pavement," said James Cerone of the Suffolk County Police Department.

The Town of Brookhaven has added two larges salt sheds that officials say will help cover the Town's roadways.

Over in Yonkers in Westchester County, workers at Marden Hardware are dusting off the snow shovels.

"This is what we've been waiting for all year. This makes our January, February. It's great; it's great for business selling the salt, the calcium," the store's owner, Eric, told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond. "It keeps us moving this time of year."

As 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reported, the snow is of concern in Hoboken, but with the full moon and high tide, it is flooding that will be the issue in the western part of the city.

After initial meetings with her team on Wednesday, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said residents should be ready for any instructions from city government starting Thursday.

"We want residents to be aware that if we get 6 inches-plus, then they'll need to move their cars from all the emergency snow routes. So they should be getting prepared for that," said Zimmer said.

The mayor said they're also watching the possibility for a storm surge very closely.

"The storm surge is definitely a concern. I mean, that's the challenge for Hoboken, if it hits at high tide and it's definitely a concern and we're watching it closely," she said.

If there is concern for enough flooding, emergency apparatus would be moved to higher ground so the city can respond faster, Schuck reported.

Meanwhile along the Jersey Shore, bulldozers were busy building berms in Belmar and Bradley Beach. The mounds of sand are a major defense against the threat of coastal flooding.

"Without a doubt flooding is our biggest concern," Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said.

Doherty said the borough is using lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy and equipment acquired after the storm to fend off the latest threat from mother nature.  

When crews finish the berm, it will stretch for 1.5 miles and stand 8 to 12 feet high.

"We anticipate being better prepared for this storm than any before," Doherty said.

In Bradley Beach, bulldozers were also working to get the job done.

"That water will more than likely come over Route 35. Sometimes we get nuisance flooding just through high tides, particularly moon tides which we're going to have this coming Friday night and Saturday morning," Doherty told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell.

Berms become critical in front of the two lakes that bookend the town. Flooding happens when the ocean rushed in and the lakes overflow, causing houses to sustain damage.

During the high tides on Saturday, moderate coastal flooding is expected for most which means property damage is likely. It's also possible that some locations will experience major flooding.

"We're going to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Bradley Beach Police Chief Len Guida said.

While out for her daily walk along the boardwalk, Doris Hillson told CBS2's Vanessa Murdock that flooding isn't a concern for her home on the highest elevation in town, but she was concerned for friends closer to sea level.

"They are moving stuff up and getting ready," she said.

And in Union Beach on Wednesday night, officials warned residents to prepare for rising tides, CBS2's Valerie Castro reported.

"Just to be prepared that the tide cycles are going to be high over the weekend, because there's a full moon and the northeast winds," Amanda Dewan said.

Dewan said she was ready to take anything that came her way in hopes that it would feel more like winter.

"I would like to see snow come down a little bit," she said.

She and her husband were prepared with salt and shovels ready to go on the front porch.

As for flooding, they were confident that their home could take on pretty much anything.

"Bought this house two days before Sandy, and it's still standing after Sandy, so as long as it's anything less than Sandy I'm not too worried," George said.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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