Snow, Freezing Rain Batter Tri-State Amid "Dire" Salt Shortage

By Storm Team 4
|  Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014  |  Updated 9:13 PM EDT
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Janice Huff's evening forecast for Wednesday, February 5.

Janice Huff's evening forecast for Wednesday, February 5.

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The second of three winter storms battering the tri-state this week pounded the region with a slushy mix of snow and freezing rain Wednesday, causing power outages to thousands and making travel treacherous amid a shortage of salt to coat roads. 

Heavy, wet snow started falling in most parts of the tri-state after midnight and later transitioned to freezing rain and sleet in most parts of the area, forecasters say. 

Significant ice buildup was seen throughout the region, contributing to at least one partial roof collapse in New Jersey and perhaps causing other structural issues, like a Duane Reade awning collapse in Union Square. Sheets of ice were expected to make roadways more hazardous into the night, and icing on tree and power lines was being blamed for power outages. 

"All New Yorkers, it is a very icy situation out there, both on the sidewalks and the streets," Mayor de Blasio said at a City Hall briefing. "If you don't need to go out, you should not go out."

Tens of thousands of utility customers in New Jersey were without power at the height of the storm Wednesday, along with thousands in New York City, utilities said. In New Jersey, PSE&G said it still had more than 25,000 customers without power Wednesday evening, and cautioned that some might not get it back until Friday.

"The ice on top of heavy snow brought down trees and power lines, making restoration painstaking and difficult," the utility said.

Gov. Cuomo said some areas of the state, including New York City and Long Island, are suffering from a salt shortage, which was complicating efforts to keep streets clear, and said he was sending some of the state's 3,500-ton supply to those regions. 

"We have enough of a supply now to be able to help localities that have a truly dire situation," he said on a conference call with the media.

De Blasio said the city had all the salt it needed for this storm and the next. A number of towns on Long Island also reported having an adequate stash.

Some trucking regulations, like weight requirements on bridge crossings, were being waived in order to expedite salt deliveries into the state, the governor said.

Interstate 84 was closed to all traffic between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut borders for nearly six hours Wednesday. When it was reopened mid-afternoon, Cuomo said slippery conditions remained in some areas.

New Jersey has also been suffering from a salt shortage.

Subway service along the 1, 2, and 3 lines was disrupted throughout the morning, and the 7 train was suspended for a time as well. There were also delays on the N and Q lines. In New Jersey, NJ Transit service was suspended twice on the Northeast Corridor and New Jersey Coast Lines. NJ Transit warned riders to expect delays.

About 2 to 4 inches of snow fell in the city before the ice moved in. That accumulation came after the 8 to 10 inches that fell in the area on Monday. Areas north and west of the city saw an additional 4 to 6 inches, with slightly higher amounts further north. 

Hundreds of flights from area airports were canceled, and many were delayed.

The ice was also causing trees and branches to fall in some areas. On Long Island, a postal worker was hurt when he was struck by a falling limb, police said.

The National Weather Service said heavy snow and ice were responsible for a partial roof collapse in New Jersey's Hudson County, and there were other reports of structures straining and falling during the storm.

Gov. Christie declared a state of emergency for New Jersey and closed state offices Wednesday for all non-essential employees. Cuomo has also declared a state of emergency for New York.

Track the storm with our interactive radar here

Monday's winter weather broke daily snowfall records, caused dozens of flight cancellations as football fans tried to leave the area after Super Bowl XLVIII and contributed to at least one death.

After Wednesday's storm, black ice is a concern on sidewalks and streets as slushy snow freezes amid the dipping temps, which will be in the 20s and teens.

Beyond Wednesday, it is expected to be frosty but dry through Saturday with temperatures in the 20s and 30s. Sunday night, another snowstorm is forecast to hit the region.

SCHOOL CLOSINGS

  • New York City public schools were open Wednesday, but all school field trips were canceled.
  • Hundreds of schools, including New York City's catholic elementary schools, were closed or delayed Wednesday. Check your school here.

MASS TRANSIT/AIR TRAVEL 

  • Metro-North reduced morning rush hour service by 18 percent, and the evening rush by 25 percent. That means some local and express trains are combined, and delays are possible. Beginning at 9 p.m., Metro-North will move to hourly service for the rest of the day, but should return to normal service for Thursday's morning rush. 
  • NJ Transit was running on a storm schedule for nearly all its rail lines and is cross-honoring system-wide, but riders were dealing with two systemwide suspensions during the commute. 
  • MTA will curtail express service on some subway lines as the evening rush winds down so that trains can be stored underground on express tracks. Customers should monitor mta.info for service changes or sign up for email and text updates at mymtaalerts.com
  • LIRR was operating on a normal schedule, but there were reports of some delays and service outages on several lines.
  • Hundreds of flights in and out of the area's three major airport have been canceled, according to FlightAware.

ROAD TRAFFIC AND STREET CLOSURES

  • In New York City, track plows here.
  • In New York City, alternate side parking is suspended Wednesday and Thursday but parking meter rules are in effect.
  • Interstate 84 in New York re-opened by 2:30 p.m. after being closed most of the day. 

Send us your storm photos! Email stormteam@nbcnewyork.com, tweet #NBC4NY or upload them here

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