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Winter wallops NYC yet again

January 27, 2011 8:20:51 PM PST
New York City was pummeled by 19 inches of snow on Thursday that shutdown businesses and closed public schools.

"I've lived in New York 70 years, and this year is the worst I remember," said Lenny Eitelberg, 77. "It's the continuity of it. It just keeps coming. Every week there's something new to be worried about. It's almost become comical."

New Yorkers, keeping close watch on the cleanup after a post-Christmas blizzard paralyzed the city for days, had it a little easier this time. The heaviest snow arrived Wednesday into Thursday overnight, when there weren't many cars and buses around to get stuck.

But the city awoke to almost twice as much snow as expected. The forecast had called for up to a foot of snow, but the storm brought far more than that. Snow fell at rates of two to three inches an hour at times overnight. AccuWeather says 19 inches of snow fell on Central Park; 17.3 inches at LaGuardia Airport and 10.3 inches at JFK.

The region has already been pummeled by winter not even halfway into the season. The city has now seen 36 inches so far this winter; the city typically sees just 21 inches for the whole season.

New York City typically gets 21 inches of snow a winter. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the latest storm makes this January the snowiest since the city started keeping records, breaking the mark of 27.4 inches set in 1925. The New York area has been hit with snow eight times since mid-December.

The city, slammed for its slow response to a big storm in late December, handled this one better. It closed schools and some government offices. Federal courts in Manhattan and the United Nations shut down as well. The Statue of Liberty closed for snow removal.

Bloomberg said the city benefited both from lessons learned, as well from the storm's timing.

"This time people were already home by the time the snow really got bad," he said.

It was not all smooth, though. Bloomberg says dozens of ambulances got stuck in the heavy snow, but no patients were harmed.

He says patients in stuck ambulances were transferred to other vehicles. Bloomberg says emergency response times were higher than normal because of the storm.

Dozens of subway passengers also spent the night huddled in cars after the snowstorm stranded their train in Brooklyn's Coney Island station.

Passenger Eva Mahoney says she and other riders were routed to the distant station because signals were malfunctioning on other lines. Then the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended service, stranding the train from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

The MTA says it suspended service because it was afraid passengers might get stuck between stations. It said it had intended to use the empty train to clear snow from tracks later in the morning.

Service was restored on all subway lines and the Staten Island Railroad by late afternoon, but customers were advised that they could still expect some residual delays. Bus service was partially restored as snow removal efforts were continuing.

Bloomberg says clearing the streets is the city's "No. 1 job." He says any cars that get stuck will be towed at the driver's expense, because it can hinder plows.

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

At the direction of the Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City operated under a weather emergency until late in the day on Thursday.

A notch below a snow emergency, that means any vehicle found to be blocking roadways or impeding the ability to plow streets will be subject to towing at the owner's expense.

Even though the emergency has been lifted, the New York City Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Department of Sanitation, announced that Alternate Side Parking Regulations would remain suspended citywide on Friday to facilitate snow removal. Payment at parking meters is also suspended throughout the city.

When it comes to battling snowstorms these days, the city measures success in how much blacktop you see.

The blacktop is back on Staten Island and residents are taking notice.

City crews were able to get ahead of the storm, thanks to better planning.

The plows hit the roads early and 1,500 day laborers helped dig out intersections, aspects of the city response that seemed to make a difference.

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