New York City and New Jersey Take Heat Over Response to Snowstorm

New York City and New Jersey Take Heat Over Response to Snowstorm
Snow wreaks havoc on East Coast, causing commuter chaos and leaving at least 7 dead
A fall snowstorm wreaked havoc on the East Coast, stranding New York City commuters, canceling more than 7,000 flights, knocking out power to more than 300,000 residents and forcing children to stay at school overnight.

In Connecticut, a man was shoveling snow off his car on Interstate-95 when another car spun out of control and hit him, the state police said.

In New York, the wet snowfall and wind gusts Thursday downed numerous tree branches. Police advised people to stay indoors and avoid the roads. Commuters also were advised to avoid the Port Authority Bus Terminal — which is also used by many to travel to New Jersey — due to overcrowding. The poor weather made it difficult for buses to reach the terminal, officials said. And a multi-vehicle accident on the George Washington Bridge added to the traffic nightmare.

Video: Gov. Murphy about snowstorm response

Annnnnd….its not over yet….this is what youll be walking out to this morning…snow, sideways snow, wind, more sideways snow, cold temps, and more sideways snow ??@ABC7NY pic.twitter.com/SKuFLOSI5z

Fresh spin out on the southbound Palisades Parkway in Rockland County. Road conditions are still treacherous. pic.twitter.com/Wo9bo6C7Me

Deadly snowstorm causes commuter chaos from South to Northeast

The snow, sleet and rain caused chaos on roadways across the Northeast, especially during the evening commute.

New Jersey State Police said they responded to over 500 crashes on Thursday while Maryland State Police said they responded to over 400 crashes.

BLUE RIDGE SNOW: A number of slide offs, pretty slushy as you reach the top of the mountain on Route 7. Careful out there folks! #FirstSnow #loudoun #weather pic.twitter.com/1BTTu8cQDA

Photos: Unusual November snowstorm clobbers Northeast; Gridlock traffic creates maze of New York City streets, bridges

NOPE NOPE NOPE: plow trucks are out, but pretty slushy & slippery along parts of Route 7 in Clarke & Loudoun counties. Traffic is slowing down to about 30 mph. #Storm #driving #slowgo pic.twitter.com/2IWwX90pj9

Later Wednesday night, near Little Rock, Arkansas, three people were killed in separate crashes on icy roads. The interstate was closed and reopened shortly before daybreak Thursday, but officials said traffic was slow-going because some drivers had fallen asleep.

Situational Awareness – @mcfrs RT3 Reserve Truck 3 (formerly T725) while enroute to Hagerstown for maintenance work (being ferried by vendor) overturned I70 East of Rt17 near Myersville, Frederick Co @FCDFRS OS, no serious injury pic.twitter.com/1hXNpzWJQH

I have never seen so many people at Port Authority Bus Terminal at once in the 7 years Ive been commuting. This is just the first floor. They shut down second and third floor due to severe overcrowding #FirstSnow #Snowvember pic.twitter.com/fRgc4vdpk5

In New Jersey, some students from Liberty Middle School had to sleep at their school in West Orange after the storm kept them from getting home Thursday.

Communities from Midwest to East Coast were hit by the first snowstorm of the season Thursday, causing flight delays, slowing down commuters and contributing to at least seven deaths. Forecasters say winter conditions should end for most areas by Friday.

Dad James Bondurant told ABC New York station WABC he was “very worried, scared. But once they assured me the kids were safe, it was better for them to be in the school than have to come get them.”

Video: NJ Gov. Phil Murphy On Storm Response

Bondurants son, 13-year-old Isaiah, told WABC he was “very worried. I called my dad, like, multiple times!”

The school tweeted photos of the students activities during their unexpected sleepover, from late-night ice cream to early morning French toast.

UPDATE…What a noreaster ?? ?? ….students at Liberty are fine, those still here treated to ice cream ?? (sorry @SodexoGroup we raided the cafeteria again)….@woschools pic.twitter.com/AlvN9v2QIl

He said there were 1,000 vehicular accidents and 1,900 motorist aide requests called in to the state police on Thursday. One person was killed in a crash involving a vehicle and an NJ Transit train on train tracks in New Providence.

One student told WABC she had trouble sleeping. But she added, “I was worried for my dad because I heard there was a lot of crashes, so I didnt want him to come.”

On Thursday, after spending the day touting his accomplishments at a convention in Atlantic City, Murphy took to social media, releasing a video in his tie-less suit, saying forecasters had gotten the storm wrong.

5:30 am UPDATE…..Rise & Shine ?????? ….Liberty staff serving up FRENCH TOAST this morning….@woschools pic.twitter.com/1rpOzYaUOs

One of New York Citys biggest commuter hubs, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, closed on Thursday when it ran out of room, stranding snow-soaked commuters trying to get home to New Jersey.

That was little consolation to people who were stuck behind accidents, left waiting for NJ Transit buses that never showed up, and unable to navigate unplowed highways.

Snowstorm causes havoc in NYC – what went wrong?

New York City got a whopping six inches of snow, the biggest one-day snow total for the city in November since the late 1800s.

But Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy wasn't taking the blame. He blamed weather forecasters after the storm dropped more than a half a foot of snow in some areas.

The snow has moved out and its raining in Center City! The wintry mix Mother Nature left behind has proved to be a headache for those trying to get home. pic.twitter.com/4ksDOpKZtW

.@GovMurphy: “Yesterday gave forecasting a bad name and we mean it.” Meteorologist friends care to respond? #FirstSnow #snowstorm @fox5ny

The rain may have washed away a lot of the snow and sleet packed on the streets, but its become a slick and slushy maze for pedestrians navigating their way home tonight @6abc pic.twitter.com/DJnHkXwcND

Mount Hope, New York: 18.3 inchesNewton, Pennsylvania: 12.3 inchesMontague, New Jersey: 10.2 inchesNew Fairfield, Connecticut: 10 inchesBurrillville, Rhode Island: 9 inches

That only began to change on Wednesday, forecast data show. By then, forecast models had largely backed off from their headier snow predictions, instead suggesting that warm air would infiltrate the storm quickly and turn frozen precipitation to water fairly quickly for all but northwestern parts of the state. 

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan called Thursday one of the most challenging nights Ive ever seen with the way traffic hit, especially in the Bronx and Manhattan.”

Rush hour hit, and New Jerseys roads became icy tombs for cars. School buses trying to shepherd children home from school got stranded and kids were held in schools. Many parents were facing hours long commutes leaving many of their children under the supervision of school districts late into the night. 

East Coast commuters face slow rides to work after snowstorm

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said a 20-car pileup on the George Washington Bridge caused a ripple effect that spread throughout New York City and New Jersey.

“So whether you got 8 (inches) of snow with a little sleet and freezing rain, or 4 (inches) of snow with a boatload of sleet/freezing rain, NJDOT planning would have produced the same result for NJ drivers,” he said on Twitter. “You were screwed. And now they are trying to trick you.” 

Snow and ice develops and makes for a slick evening commute

The out bound upper level to the George Washington Bridge is temporarily closed due to a multi-vehicle accident.

The New York Area Was Nearly Paralyzed by 6 Inches of Snow. What Went Wrong?

New York City saw a 79 percent increase in 911 calls Thursday and a 162 percent increase in collisions, said Monahan. 

State Police responded to 1,000 crashes, helped 1,900 drivers during N.J. snowstorm

It was a horrible experience and the perfect storm, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told local news channel NY1 on Friday.

First snowfall of the season cripples exhausted commuters in New York and New Jersey

De Blasio told reporters that he shares New Yorkers frustration with the storm, but said that he doesnt think its fair to blame the city agencies.

Clearly that didnt happen, but it was enough for most forecasts, including that of the National Weather Service, to predict a more modest 1 to 3 inches of snow, with the potential for half an inch of sleet and a thin glaze of ice.  

Heres how half a foot of snow led to a commuting nightmare in New York City this week

The mayor said there was no indication that the storm was going to dump more than one to three inches of snow until about 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, and that at that point it was too late and difficult to get information out to New Yorkers.

New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said the agency was planning for one inch of snow, which would not have necessitated plows on the roads. However, by the time they recognized the full scope of the storm, all 700 salt and sand spreaders and between 350 to 700 of the citys 1,600 plows were out.

On Friday morning City Council Speaker Corey Johnson apologized to the public for the Citys response to Thursdays snowstorm, but also said he would investigate what went wrong. (Max Rivlin-Nadler / Gothamist)

As the weather heats up and the city becomes one giant pile of slush, New Yorkers are beginning to look for answers about why six inches of snow caused the city to grind to a halt after yesterday’s freak November snow storm. Their questions include why the city’s buses did not have snow chains on their wheels, why salt spreaders were unable to reach large portions of the city, and how a rush hour storm was able to generate gridlock that cascaded from the George Washington Bridge all the way to southern Brooklyn.

Republican state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, who represents parts of Morris, Essex, and Passaic counties, released a statement, saying in part:  "People have the right to expect their roads to be salted and plowed…Governor, dont blame it on the meteorologists, or the poor guy driving the salt or plow truck. You own this one.”

Another round of light wintry mix, snow ends early Friday morning

“We got 6 to 7 inches of snow, which was a record,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told reporters at a press conference in front of a fallen tree branch in Chelsea this afternoon. “But it was still only six inches of snow. We’re New York City, we get blizzards. Twelve inches — fourteen inches — two feet of snow! We should have been prepared to deal with six inches of snow even if it was a record.”

Traffic expert Sam Schwartz said Thursday’s storm created one of the worst traffic jams in New York City history. “Yesterday wasn’t just a city breakdown it was a breakdown of the entire region. In fact I’d say this is going to make it into my list of top 10 gridlock days I’ve seen,” he told WNYC / Gothamist. Schwartz compared the city’s paralysis as comparable to a snow storm in Atlanta in 2014 that left motorists stranded and freezing on highways. He also believes the optics are as bad for Mayor Bill de Blasio as they were for Mayor John Lindsay in 1969, whose own mayoralty was left permanently stained by an ineffective response to a nor’easter that left 42 people dead.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti said that Department of Transportation trucks started to salt the roads an hour before the storm. But she says that the DOT did not expect the snow to intensify as quickly as it did, before the salting was complete.

Schwartz said he suspects the city won’t botch it again quite like this. “Every few years we have a snowstorm that cripples the city, there’s a post mortem, and we get it right next time. Believe me the next time there’s a hit of a dusting, a single snowflake, everything will be activated,” he said.

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There were reports and videos of MTA buses stuck in the snow, sliding around, without chains on the wheels, which buses are usually equipped with during snow storms.

This @mta bus has been stuck like this for almost 2 hours now #nyc #Snowvember #UES pic.twitter.com/1j3mT2SQlU

A spokesman for the MTA said the agency follows the forecast and on Wednesday night, with just one to two inches predicted, it wasn’t enough to put chains on all the tires. And once the snow began falling, it was too late to put on the chains because all the buses were already out on the streets. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the George Washington Bridge, denies it was caught off guard. “The day before the storm we had an agency wide meeting with all general managers at all facilities detailing preparations and what they planned to do, any thought we were blindsided or not prepared is false,” PANYNJ spokesman Steve Coleman, told us. Coleman said the George Washington Bridge was salted and sanded before the storm. But that didn’t prevent a 25-car pile up from snarling traffic on the upper level. Coleman blames New York City and New Jersey officials for not plowing the entrances to the bridge. Mayor Bill de Blasio blames the traffic on the George Washington Bridge creating a domino effect that led to Thursday night ranking in the top 10 most congested days in the city.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that the state is ready to protect consumers from any unfair or deceptive business practices as a result of the storm. Consumers should call 973-504-6200 if they experienced any problems.

At his press conference in Chelsea, Johnson, who has no direct responsibility for the city’s response to weather events, apologized anyway, saying it was his job to oversee the agencies whose responses went so awry.

Twenty-seven members of the City Council released a letter on Friday afternoon calling for a five-agency oversight hearing into the botched response to the storm.

“While the City is still assessing the emergency conditions and chaos caused by yesterday’s storm, there is very little doubt that despite forecasts and advance warnings of an approaching storm, the various City departments and agencies meant to protect New Yorkers did not perform their basic responsible and duties,” the letter reads.

Several City Council members spent hours trapped in their cars commuting home on Thursday, including Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, who says she spent nine hours stuck in her car.

Johnson pledged to use the oversight powers of the City Council to get answers, but cautioned that might take a few weeks.

“We need a full operational review and its why the Council is going to use its full oversight authority because I think in less than twenty-four hours we’re not going to have answers to these millions of questions,” Johnson told reporters. In the meantime, New Yorkers are just left with the harrowing memories of a devastatingly bad commute.


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