New York City officials declared a "weather emergency" ahead of Tuesday night's snow storm, urging people to be cautious and only drive and commute as necessary since a foot of snow is expected to blanket the five boroughs.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the so-called "weather emergency declaration," which falls short of a "snow emergency." This lesser declaraton does not force people to move their cars off roads. In essence, City Hall is trying to convince people not to drive or move their cars -- but without triggering the formal rules of the outright snow emergency.
Meantime, tri-state residents are preparing for another big wallop of snow -- the third storm in less than three weeks. The MTA promised to do its best after a string of outages during the past storm, but as of Tuesday evening, the Long Island Rail Road had suspended trains east of Ronkonkoma for the Wednesday morning commute and also scrubbed two trains tonight between Ronkonkoma and Greenport. Bus service will only be offered between Speonk and Montauk Tuesday nigh, the LIRR said.
At this point, forecasters believe the snow will move in early Tuesday evening and end Wednesday morning. The most intense snow could fall between 10 p.m. Tuesday and 4 a.m Wednesday, making for a rough morning commute.
A winter storm warning is in effect for the five boroughs, Long Island and northeast New Jersey until about 6 p.m. Wednesday. The advisory means severe weather conditions are expected or occurring and significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel perilous.
This storm is poised to pack a bigger punch than the one that dusted the city with a few inches on Friday but shouldn't be quite as disastrous as the monster that covered the city with more than two feet of snow the day after Christmas, leaving large swaths of the outerboroughs unplowed for days.
Still smarting over that blizzard, Bloomberg apologized for being caught flat-footed and vowed to do better with the upcoming storm.
"We didn't do as good a job as we wanted by any stretch of the imagination, for that I apologize," said Bloomberg during a noon briefing.
Mayor Bloomberg warned that the morning rush is going to be difficult and vowed to make sure not to repeat the blizzard mistake of failing to hire enough private snow removers.
"We didn't hire the people in advance, so when we called they had already taken jobs at private places," he said.
Widespread flight cancelations moved from the Deep South into the Northeast and Great Lakes on Tuesday as the storm moved north.
Forecasters see heavy snow all along the I-95 corridor from Philadelphia to Boston. Central Suffolk County and Conneticut appear to become the hardest hit, with upwards of 18 inches of snow predicted. Powered by two weather systems merging from the west and south, the heaviest snow is expected between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Wednesday, slowly tapering off after that.
Southern New Jersey will see the first snow from the coastal storm, starting Tuesday afternoon, and it's expected to spread northward through the evening hours.
The southern part of the state is expected to get at least 5 inches, with 6 to 10 inches possible for central New Jersey and 7 to 14 inches in the New York suburbs.
Meteorologists predict anywhere from 6 to 12 inches could fall in the city.
Meantime, the New York City Department of Sanitation has issued a snow alert beginning Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the three major New York metropolitan area airports, say all are ready with equipment and supplies for the approaching snow storm.
Con Edison is also closely monitoring the approaching winter storm, and says customers can report outages or check service restoration status online by computer, cell phone or PDAs at www.conEd.com. Customers can also call 1-800-75CONED with any issues.
The preparations come as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration admitted multiple breakdowns in its decisions before, during and after a post-Christmas blizzard that paralyzed the city, telling lawmakers at a hearing Monday that the city is sorry and making changes.
A top deputy mayor and several commissioners testified at a City Council hearing about the Dec. 26 storm that dumped more than 2 feet of snow in parts of the city.
As always, check back with NBCNewYork.com for up-to-the-minute weather information, severe weather alerts, school closings, satellite radar and updated forecasts.