The first snowstorm of the season to hit the New York City area brought several inches of heavy, wet snow that slowed the evening’s commute to a crawl, completely paralyzing it in some spots.
The snowfall Thursday downed countless tree branches throughout the city, causing traffic gridlock in some areas. Police advised people to stay indoors and avoid the roads, if possible.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal had to be partially shut down due to overcrowding. Lines outside the terminal were stretching around the block even as the evening rush wound down. Officials say the poor weather made it difficult for buses to reach the terminal.
Newark’s Penn Station was also a nightmare for many, packed wall to wall with little communication and frustration simmering among exasperated commuters, who resorted to pushing and shoving amid the disorder, many people reported on social media.
The Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit also had systemwide delays.
A multi-vehicle accident on the George Washington Bridge added to the traffic nightmare. After sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, people bailed out of vehicles and started trekking over the bridge and snow-covered ramp back to Manhattan, filing toward the 178th Street exit.
The city’s sanitation department says it had nearly 700 salt spreaders pre-deployed around the city by noontime.
“The afternoon snowfall was much heavier than had been forecast by all weather outlets requiring that we deploy plows,” said spokesman Vito Turso in a statement. “Complicating issues was the fact that several bridges were closed, and traffic, particularly in the Bronx, upper Manhattan and on Staten Island, came to a halt with our snow clearing equipment stuck within.”
Storm Team 4 had predicted snow early in the week, with projected totals creeping up Wednesday into Thursday.
Eric Phillips, a spokesman for the New York City mayor’s office, added that snow plows and salters were having a hard time on congested streets: “Downed trees are a big issue right now,” he tweeted.
The sanitation department says more than 1,000 pieces of equipment will work through the night to clear all roadways for the morning’s rush hour. Alternate side parking is suspended Friday.
Traffic was equally a nightmare across the rest of the tri-state. In New Jersey, the Bayonne Bridge was shut down, all the major tunnels saw delays, and stretches of major highways — including the Garden State, I-280, I-78, RT-10 and RT-130 — were closed at the height of the storm. The Palisades Parkway was at a standstill at one point.
Flight delays crept up to over four hours at Kennedy Airport, and they weren’t much better at Newark and LaGuardia airports.
The snow should turn to mostly sleet and rain before changing to rain overnight.