NYC overprepares for new snow after blizzard mess

Associated Press
Traffic makes it's way along East Broadway during a snow storm, Friday, Jan. 7, 2011 in New York.  With fewer than 6 inches of snowfall expected Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration is readying its emergency-response team, determined not to take another political pummeling. Less than two weeks after a post-Christmas blizzard paralyzed the city and its airports for days, the beleaguered mayor on Thursday detailed new and experimental plans for cleanup after the coming storm. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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New York City came out overprepared Friday for a weak storm that delivered just a few inches of snow — not enough to plow in most places and likely not enough for the mayor to redeem himself from a disastrous response to a post-Christmas blizzard.

Flakes melted onto wet streets as snowplows — some equipped with global positioning devices since the blizzard foul-up — and salt spreaders sat idle in neighborhoods all over the city.

By nightfall, the National Weather Service reported the highest accumulation citywide was 2 inches in Queens, a mere dusting compared with the holiday storm that dumped 29 inches in Staten Island, 2 feet in Brooklyn and 20 inches in Central Park.

Six to 12 inches was forecast Friday for parts of upstate New York, where dozens of schools were closed, but in the New York City area, a total of 3 to 5 inches was expected.

At most, about 4 inches of snow was recorded in the Bronx and nearly 2 inches in Central Park by around 7 p.m. Friday, the National Weather Service reported.

"They probably spent a small fortune getting prepared for nothing. For nothing!" said Richie Quinn, 53, a butcher who lives in Brooklyn. "Yet we were unprepared for the big boy."

After that winter blast on the tail of a holiday travel weekend, swaths of the city went unplowed for days, ambulances got stuck and the overworked sanitation department allowed trash to pile up. The response was so mired with problems — including rumors of a deliberate work slowdown by sanitation workers — that it is being examined by federal and local investigators.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, which has reassigned some sanitation supervisors and demoted its EMS command chief, seized Friday's storm as a chance to restore its image as a government that smoothly handles emergencies.

Along with the GPS devices on some sanitation trucks, teams of workers were deployed throughout the city, toting video cameras that sent live feeds of street conditions back to commanders at emergency headquarters.

Bloomberg also visited a south Brooklyn neighborhood that had been hit hard by the last snowstorm.

"We don't think the snowfall will be anything like the Christmas blizzard, but we are ready for any eventuality," he told citizens at a senior center.

A big storm might have been a chance for Bloomberg to begin repairing his reputation that has been damaged in the aftermath of the late-December storm.

But it did not seem significant enough to make anyone soon forget past mistakes.

As the mayor left the center, Caroline Ruggiero, who said her street was not plowed for days, tried to approach him and ask why she and her neighbors have gone without garbage pickups since Christmas. Security blocked her and Bloomberg walked away.

"We still have piles of snow and we have not had a trash pickup yet," she said in an interview. "Never in all my life have I seen a snowstorm debacle like this."

By Friday afternoon, agency liaisons were being sent home early from the city Emergency Operations Center, where city agencies coordinate their emergency response efforts. The Dec. 26 blizzard had filled the center with the ringing of phones, the voices of officials and the sounds of television newscasts. But on Friday little more could be heard there than hushed conversations, as uniformed men and women peered at maps and typed at their computers.

Some New Yorkers noticed the city's readiness for Friday's snow, even if it wasn't needed.

Patricia Perales, 34, of Brooklyn, said she saw salt trucks stationed Thursday night, long before flakes began falling Friday morning.

"It's night and day," she said of the difference between the storms. "I had a cold walk to the subway, but other than that I barely noticed the snow."

North of New York City in Westchester County, police reported auto accidents on several county parkways and Interstate 84 was closed for a stretch near the New York-Connecticut border. Connecticut State Police said some motorists were stranded when I-84 from Southbury to Danbury became impassable. Emergency workers used snowmobiles and four-wheel drive vehicles to check on them.

New Jersey, where some roads went unplowed for days after the December blizzard, also ramped up its preparation — state police said more troopers would be on state roads to help slow down traffic so plow drivers can complete their work safely.

By Friday evening, New Jersey's snowfall ranged from just under 2 inches at Newark Liberty International Airport to as high as 6 inches in Bergen County, according to the National Weather Service. Airports reported only a smattering of delays and canceled flights.

Commuters who had taken their cues from morning forecasters looked overdressed by Friday evening's trek home, as they stood bundled up in winter gear at bus stops or trudged in heavy snow boots along clear streets or sidewalks showing mostly pavement.

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AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas and Associated Press writers Frank Eltman in Farmingdale, N.Y.; Jim Fitzgerald in Mount Vernon, N.Y.; Warren Levinson, Samantha Gross and Colleen Long in New York City; and Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J. contributed to this story.

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