New York City snowstorm response: What happened?

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Saturday, November 17, 2018
New York City snowstorm response: What happened?
Josh Einiger has more on the city's response to the snowstorm.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio is responding to criticism of New York City's response to Thursday's early winter storm, which stranded thousands of passengers at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and created a commuting nightmare after higher-than-expected accumulation.

"(Just after noon) yesterday was the first indication of 3 to 5 inches of snow," de Blasio said a Friday afternoon news conference. "Normally, 3 to 5 inches of snow would not have posed this kind of problem. It ended up coming at exactly the wrong time, basically concentrated as the rush hour was beginning. Heavy wet snow, heavier, faster than anyone expected, so there are a lot of reasons why things ended up the way they did."

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials address questions about Thursday's snow problems

Still, many residents and city officials are outraged at the response, or as they say, a lack thereof.

De Blasio said he understands why people are frustrated that the city was caught off guard by the snowstorm, which stranded some drivers in their cars for hours, and he promised the city "will do a full review of what happened here."

"I was caught in it too," he said. "We all go through the same exact experience. I was in paralyzed traffic. I think this is not as simple as dropping the ball. I look at the track record of the sanitation department, they have done an amazing job...We've got to do better. We've got to learn lessons."

He blamed traffic, downed trees, accidents on the George Washington Bridge and elsewhere, and bridge closures for impeding plows, salt trucks, and commuter buses, as well as a late-changing forecast for things like city buses not having chains on their tires.

But the mayor also stressed that if the city knew earlier that there would be accumulating snow, he would have warned drivers to "Stay off the roads, don't go to work, don't use your cars, leave room for the plows."

De Blasio and city officials also addressed questions about why more plows were not on the streets, saying the original forecast and timing of the change in forecast played major factors.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and city officials address questions about Thursday's snow problems

A mayoral spokesman said the early storm and the lack of tire chains meant many buses had to pull over, "further clogging streets."

Bus delays caused a logjam of commuters Thursday, forcing officials to close the doors at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal. Port Authority officials say only 232 of the normal 1,429 buses were able to access the terminal during 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. peak, an 84 percent drop in service.

As for the George Washington Bridge accidents, officials said eight Port Authority trucks started spreading salt on the bridge before 1 p.m. Thursday. One eastbound accident at 2:30 p.m. involved more than 20 vehicles, basically a chain-reaction fender bender. Another westbound accident, involving two tractor trailers, followed at 3:20 p.m. All lanes on the bridge did not open until 6:30 p.m.

On the Major Deegan, plows could not properly clear the road due to the number of accidents, in addition to abandoned cars. Some people who stayed were on the roadway for 10 hours.

Tim Fleischer reports on the snowstorm aftermath in Westchester County.

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia noted in a phone interview with Eyewitness News on Friday morning that the intersection of Major Deegan Expressway and Cross Bronx Expressway was a spot of "consistent" problems "all through the night."

She said the city's snow plows became stuck in traffic on the primary roads.

"We were stuck," she said. "One of the things we always do on this particular ramp, it can be so treacherous. They were going back and they got stuck. I had salt spreaders that literally were in traffic for hours. So they could not move at all. The basic rule of thumb is, we can't move, we can't work."

Conditions improved by Friday morning as snow turned to rain overnight, but the storm also downed countless trees and branches throughout the city, creating other traffic problems.

New York City schools were open Friday. Alternate Side Parking rules were suspended for snow operations, though parking meters remain in effect.



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