Oh Snow! Monster Storm Sets a January Record

By Chris Cimino and Raphael Miranda
|  Wednesday, Nov 14, 2012  |  Updated 11:38 PM EDT
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It's cloudy and cool tonight.  <a title=Raphael Miranda has the forecast." />

It's cloudy and cool tonight. Raphael Miranda has the forecast.

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The region is digging out today from a record-setting storm that blanketed parts of the tri-state area with as much as 19 inches of snow, closing NYC schools, shutting airports, and temporarily suspending city-wide bus service and some subway lines and branches of the LIRR.

Noting the storm dumped roughly twice as much snow on the city than was forecast, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference that the weather emergency declaration remained in effect through this morning and urged drivers to stay off the roads.

"Clearing the streets remains our number one job and to do that, motorists should please refrain from driving," Bloomberg said.

"All primary streets and highways have received at least one pass of the plow and we're now working on secondary and some tertiary streets," the mayor added. Bloomberg said he expects all roads will be plowed at least once by tomorrow's morning rush.

This has been the snowiest January since the city started keeping records, besting 27.4 inches set in 1925, Bloomberg said. The accumulation was about twice the amount that had been predicted, he said.

Nineteen inches of snow fell on New York City atop the 36 inches it had already seen so far this winter; the city typically sees just 21 inches for the whole season.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says dozens of bus routes in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan have been partially restored.  For complete bus service updates, check out our page here.  

All New York City schools are closed Thursday and all after school activities are cancelled. Bloomberg noted it was only the ninth time since 1978 that the nation's largest school system was shut down due to snow.  Regents exams for thousands of students were postponed until June.

"Hopefully if you learned the material, you dont' have to study again," said the mayor.
 
Additionally, all non-emergency city government offices are also closed today due to the storm.

Bloomberg said dozens of ambulances were stuck at one point overnight but that no patients were stuck in the vehicles. He also said that while emergency personnel reported a slight delay in response time as to be expected during a storm, there was no queue in 911 calls.

Residents hunkered down as the storm brought snow, sleet, and then more snow, accompanied by lightning and thunder in a phenomenon called "thundersnow.''

In a region already contending with above-average snowfall this season, the storm that began Wednesday added several more inches. The National Weather Service says 19 inches of snow fell on Central Park; 17.3 inches at LaGuardia Airport and 10.3 inches at JFK. The city already has seen at least 36 inches of snow this season.  

Last night's storm dumped nearly as much snow on the city as the blizzard that crippled operations in late December. Asked why the response to this storm was so much better than the last monster, Bloomberg credited changes made from lessons learned ,including the GPS's installed on sanitation trucks and MTA Chairman Jay Walder's decision to pull the buses off the roads just after midnight.

TRANSIT MESS

As the snow trailed off in the pre-dawn hours - with parts of the city getting 1"-3" inches per hour - transit slowed to a virtual standstill. Shortly after midnight, the MTA suspended city-wide bus service and the FAA reported that JFK, Newark and Teterboro airports were all closed due to hazardous conditions. Over 1,000 flights were canceled at JFK, Newark and LaGuardia on Wednesday evening. LaGuardia is now open, JFK will reopen at 8 a.m. and Newark at 1 p.m.

Check airport conditions for LaGuardia, JFK and Newark

By 9 a.m., the MTA said dozens of bus routes in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan were partially restored. The MTA says buses will begin running on all roads as soon as they are cleared and safe.  

City subways are also running again with delays. Service had been suspended on some above-ground sections of lines in outer boroughs, including the Q line.  Bloomberg referenced his own morning commute via subway to underscore what officials said was a quicker mass transit recovery to this storm than to last month's blizzard.

"I had to wait a whole minute and a half,"  the  mayor said.

The Staten Island Ferry is running every half-hour and Staten Island Railway service has resumed with residual delays after being suspended earlier. PATH trains are running on a delayed schedule.

The city also announced that alternate side parking and parking meter regulations are suspended Thursday for snow removal.

The Long Island Rail Road suspended service overnight but had restored service as of early Thursday morning. However, at least 30 of the LIRR's 145 trains will likely be canceled because of the conditions and delays are expected. Commuters are being told to head to stations and wait for updates.

Metro-North service on the Harlem and Hudson lines will run on a Saturday schedule while service on the New Haven line has been suspended until further notice.

New Jersey Transit is slowly restoring bus service, but fewer lines are running due to low ridership. Bus service on Long Island is suspended.

Amtrak has suspended service from New York to Boston and from New Haven to Springfield. Amtrak service between Washington and New York is operating with limitated cancellations.

All branches of the New York City Public Library have been closed for the day as has the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Ticket holders can reschedule their visits by going to the Statue Cruises website.

The storm already has claimed a life.  A 64-year-old woman on Long Island was fatally struck by a snow plow. In a bizarre turn in Manhattan, a man with a head injury also was found in the trunk of a BMW after the driver got into a fender-bender with a taxi in the middle of the storm, police said. The man was hospitalized in stable condition. Authorities were searching for the driver, who ran away.

POWER PROBLEMS

More than 1,000 homes and businesses in the metropolitan New York City area are without electric power after a major overnight snowstorm.  

Con Edison reported 329 customers out at 8 a.m. Thursday, with 241 of those in Brooklyn. Spokeswoman Sara Banda said the highest number overnight was 1,150.  

The Long Island Power Authority's website listed 887 customers out.
 
Orange and Rockland Utilities had no outages reported. Spokesman Mike Donovan said 160 customers were without power for less than an hour overnight.  

In New Jersey, about 1800 PSE&G customers are without power as a result of the storm.  Most of the outages are scattered across the southern portion of the utility’s service territory. Crews are working to restore service. 

MASSIVE RESPONSE

On Wednesday afternoon, Bloomberg issued a weather emergency declaration. Drivers are urged to stay off the roads, the use of public transit is encouraged and motorists should not leave their cars blocking roadways.

The mayor said 365 salt spreaders and 1,700 plows were out on the streets, plus 138 from other city agencies and another 128 heavy duty equipment capable of plowing. Sanitation workers were on 12-hour shifts and being assisted by workers and equipment from the Departments of Transportation, Parks, and Environmental Protection. The city has on hand more than 190,000 tons of salt, having already used more than 230,000 tons since the December blizzard.

Sanitation spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins says the goal is to have 100 percent of every route plowed by Thursday evening.  

Since Dec. 14, snow has fallen eight times on the New York region — or an average of about once every five days. That includes the blizzard that dropped 20 inches on the city and paralyzed travel after Christmas.

For the latest information, follow us on Twitter @NBCNewYork,and on Facebook/NBCNewYork, and sign up for breaking weather SMS alerts on your phone by texting “NYBREAKING” to 639710. 

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