Snow What? Storm Mostly Misses Manhattan
By Ben Fractenberg and Mariel S. Clark
MANHATTAN — The city pounced on any snowflakes unlucky enough to fall in Manhattan but most of the snow was nonexistant by Friday afternoon.
The city was expected to get just 1 to 3 inches throughout the day with temperatures hovering just above freezing, according to meteorologists.
As of 3 p.m. little more than one-tenth of an inch had fallen in Central Park, according to the National Weather Service.
Though not a crippling blizzard, the swirling snow did cause some delays on Friday morning even as hundreds of city workers plowed and salted streets and scrambled to stay ahead of the flakes.
"It was really bad. It was really slow," Sarah Mason, 30, a personal trainer, said of her Friday morning subway commute from 190th Street to 57th Street. "They act as if it were snowing underground."
Although Mason waited 20 minutes during rush hour for an overcrowded train to arrive, it was faster than when her commute took two hours during the Dec. 26 blizzard.
"It's not as bad as that," she said. "But who knows what things will bring tomorrow."
The NWS issued a winter weather advisory in effect through midnight Friday and warned drivers to watch for slippery roads and poor visibility.
LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airports reported delays due to snow and ice, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website, despite recording less than .06 inches of snow by 10 a.m.
In Manhattan enough snow had fallen by noon for some of the city’s 1,700 snowplows to start scraping the streets; the plows need two inches on the ground to run safely, according the Department of Sanitation.
“Right now we’re right at freezing but not really below it, so the temperatures are helping us out,” said DOS spokesperson Keith Mellis.
Despite the forecast calling for just a few inches, the city pulled out all the stops to prepare for the snow after last month's blizzard debacle left Michael Bloomberg digging his reputation out of the deep freeze.
"I see more trucks in the road earlier — before the snow was even coming down," said Juan Perez, 21, who commuted from the Bronx to Midtown. "Last time [during the blizzard] I didn't see anything."
Mayor Bloomberg announced Thursday the city would deploy "SCOUT” teams (street condition observation unit) to monitor the streets with cameras, to make sure the city is up to speed on the state of the snow.
In addition to the plows, 365 salt spreaders were roaming the streets and additional private contractors were on call, Bloomberg said.
The city equipped 50 sanitation trucks with GPS tracking systems, and planned, if things went smoothly, to outfit all 1,700 plows, he said.
"While I realize there were problems with the city’s snow clearing efforts last week, we want to assure all New Yorkers that we are doing everything in our power to make sure we don’t experience those kinds of problems again," Bloomberg told reporters at City Hall Thursday. "We plan to do a great job, the kind of job that the public expects us to do."
By early afternoon it appeared as though the storm would largely be a miss for New York with little to no snow accumulation.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. praised what some called an over-reaction to the storm.
“There have been almost as many plows and salt spreaders as there are yellow cabs in Manhattan. This is the response we expected and deserved during the recent blizzard. Is it overkill? Yes – but it’s to be expected and it sends a message that the City won’t fail twice,” he said in a statement.
December's blizzard dumped 20 inches and ground the city to a halt, something not lost on those watching the new flakes pile on top of snow still left on the ground from that storm.
"Snowing in New York City. It looks so beautiful, covering the enormous piles of uncollected garbage in a blanket of white,” tweeted author and New York resident R.L. Stine.
Subway steps around the city got an extra coating of salt early Friday morning, and the Long Island Rail Road announced it would provide extra service Friday afternoon, with eight additional eastbound trains from Penn Station.
"I think given the fact it was huge wallop it caused this sensitivity," said commuter Stan Fields, 50, about the last blizzard.
In response to the snow, the city cancelled all planned subway service changes for the weekend.
Commuters kept their fingers crossed that there wouldn't be major delays getting home.
"The test will be later today," said Fields.