New York City workers and public school students had no significant delays in their commutes Wednesday, as locals shoveled and cleaned up the five to nine inches of snow that fell overnight.
The snow accumulated across the five boroughs from about 8 p.m. Tuesday until 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the newly created emergency declaration has been lifted. However, alternate-side parking rules will be suspended through Thursday. Metered parking and garbage collection has also been suspended.
While the snow has ended, the frigid temperatures will continue throughout the day and night, making roads icy and more difficult to shovel.
The Bronx saw the highest accumulation, with 12 inches reported in Bedford Park. In Brooklyn Heights, 8.8 inches were measured. A total of 9.1 inches fell in Central Park and 6.1 inches fell by John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. In Eltingville, Staten Island, eight inches of snow was measured.
Schools Chancellor Cathie Black announced just after 5 a.m. Wednesday that New York City public schools would be open. All field trips were canceled, but after-school programs and PSAL events were expected to go on as scheduled.
"The last thing we want to do is close schools and put 1.1 million children wandering around with nothing to do," said the schools chancellor. "The principals that I've talked to this morning, I just randomly selected a half a dozen to try to get through to, first of all were thrilled that I called. I asked them were they able to serve breakfast, the answer was 'yes.' What were they doing with some teachers who had not shown up. They had put classrooms together, a couple had called in subs. Another said to me, 'We didn't need any subs.'"
Education officials say the decision was made after an early-morning conference call with representatives from the Department of Sanitation, Office of Emergency Management, Deputy Mayors Stephen Goldsmith and Denis Walcott, Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm and others about the road and travel condition.
However, only 46 percent of students citywide attended public school Wednesday.
In the city's elementary schools, the attendance rate was 50.5 percent, while public middle schools saw a 47.5 percent attendance rate. Public high schools had 37.2 percent of its students present.
Yet many students had important reasons for attending class.
"When I woke up, I ran to the TV to see and unfortunately we had school," said one student. "We have midterms this week so it would have been bad to miss a review or a test so I had to come."
A handful of private and parochial schools were closed. That list can be found below.
Public schools have only been closed six times since 1978.
City officials are trying to avoid the mistakes that plagued the response to last month's blizzard.
Salt spreaders and plows were out in force, and some areas that didn't see plows for days after the blizzard have been plowed more than once.
Department of Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty told NY1 that over 2,400 workers were out Tuesday night on over 300 trucks. They were joined by an additional 192 laborers.
As of 6:45 a.m., all primary roads had been cleared, 50-75 percent of all secondary roads had been plowed at least once, and the DOS and hired equipment and assigned 116 private contractors to plow tertiary roads.
Twenty-two extra ambulances also hit the streets.
The city says that the addition of GPS devices to some sanitation trucks came in handy as one truck became stuck and was able to quickly alert the department.
New scout teams patrolled the streets – sending streaming video of road conditions back to City Hall and the mayor's personal iPad to help coordinate plowing efforts.
"What they will start doing later today and in the future is gathering feedback from the public through 311, through community groups, through elected officials, through other tools that we're putting out so the public can chime in on what they're seeing," said Director Elizabeth Weinstein of the Mayor's Office of Operations. "And we can send scouts out to what they're seeing firsthand, so that sanitation and other folks at City Hall actually get a perspective from the public with video included."
Those out and about early Wednesday morning in Brooklyn and in Queens said they noticed the improved conditions on the roadways and sidewalks. Even some who wanted to shovel sidewalks and streets for money found they had a lot less work, compared with last month's blizzard.
"I expected that it would be better today," said one New Yorker. "At least they have plowed at least once, from what I can see."
"When I got up this morning, I saw trucks all over the street," said another. "So they're doing alright. What we went through last time, they're surprising everyone because they're out here."
"Highways are clear," said a third. "Did a good job, big difference, pretty clear. They did a good job this time."
Local leaders, too, are applauding the city's efforts this time around.
"Obviously, Sanitation’s job was made easier by significantly less snowfall than last month’s blizzard,” said City Councilman Dov Hikind. "But I want to give credit where it’s due, and the Sanitation Department stood at the ready before the first snowflake even fell. This is the kind of reaction New Yorkers have a right to expect. I knew they could get it right."
"Difference is black and white. Blacktop this time, snow last time," said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. "So much blacktop out here in northwest Queens that the Knicks could play out on these streets."
Under the emergency declaration, cars that blocked snow plows could be towed – at the owner's expense. The mayor said that only 30 cars were towed, which is about normal for that time period without snow.
The mayor said that the city's 311 system provided a vital service during the storm.
“As of 9 a.m., 311 had received 155,000 calls and more than 80 percent of them about the status of schools and alternate-side street parking and garbage and recycling pickup schedules," said the mayor. "As a matter of fact, between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., that one hour, was 311’s busiest hour ever, with 45,000 calls in one hour. Can you imagine if we didn’t have 311? People just wouldn’t have ways to find out what’s going on.”
Public Transit Functions With Very Minor Delays
There were no cancellations of city buses and subways, but riders were advised to check with mta.info before heading out.
MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay Walder said he expected normal service on subways and buses for the evening commute, as well.
He warned that because the storm hit harder on Long Island and points north of the city, delays and service changes are likely on the commuter rails.
"We expect to be able to get back to close to a normal schedule for the LIRR for the pm rush, and a sunday schedule for Metro North," said Walder. "We are adding extra trains as necessary to deal with the crowding, so if more people are coming in we will be able to get them back. Our primary concern is really the areas up where the storm has hit really hard and not wanting to have any trains that are stranded in those areas."
MTA bridges and tunnels were salted and plowed.
Access-A-Ride service on Wednesday was cancelled, except for trips of medical necessity (dialysis, radiation treatment or chemotherapy).
Metro-North was running on a Sunday schedule, meaning riders could expect some crowded trains and delays.
Long Island Rail Road ran significantly reduced weekday morning service. In Jamaica, Queens, workers were out before dawn clearing snow and slush off of the LIRR platforms.
"We called in 600 additional employees overnight," said LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone. "They've been working overnight on the platforms and the tracks and the switches and the other equipment, snow-blowing equipment, has been out. We've been working diligently to get service up and running.
New Jersey Transit was operating a regular weekday schedule on all rail and bus lines, but officials warned there could be scattered delays across the system. Tickets were being cross honored if travelers needed to take an alternate route.
Amtrak says it plans to operate on a normal schedule Thursday from New York City to points in New England and Upstate New York.
Crews have also repaired damage from the storm that delayed Amtrak service north of New Haven, Connecticut.
All Acela Express, Northeast Regional and Shuttle trains are scheduled to operate on the New York City-Boston/Springfield corridors, as well as Empire Service trains on the New York City-Buffalo/Niagara Falls route.
All PATH train service is on a regular schedule.
Even though the public transportation system seemed to be handling the storm well, more than 1,700 flights have been canceled at area airports with more expected to be rescheduled.
The Port Authority says there were no significant delays on arriving or departing flights at LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark Airports late Wednesday.
Delta, American, Continental, US Airways and United account for many of the cancellations spanning from New York all the way to the southeast, where a storm grounded hundreds of flights earlier this week.
Most major airlines say customers scheduled to fly in or out of New York area airports now through Thursday can rebook flights without the usual fees.
Check with your airline for specific rebooking deadlines.
It’s not just New York that has been facing a difficult winter. The season is definitely making its mark – with snow on the ground in 49 of the 50 states, including Hawaii.
The National Weather Service says about nine inches of snow fell on the top of Hawaii's Big Island Tuesday.
Only Florida is currently snow-free.
Winter storms have crippled much of the southeast, including Atlanta, where snow and ice are still causing big problems.
Yesterday's storm dumped more than two feet of snow in parts of the northeast.
The weather service says it's not the first time 49 states have had snow at the same time, but that it is an unusual occurrence.
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Schools/Programs Closed Today
Preston High School
St. Athanasius School
St. Clare School
Our Lady of Mercy School
International Leadership Charter High School
Immaculate Heart of Mary School
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School
Packer Collegiate Academy
St. Joseph High School
St. Francis of Assisi School
St. Sylvester School
Believe Northside Charter High School
Believe Southside Charter High School
Williamsburg Charter High School
Clara Muhammad School of Masjid Khalifah
Ss. Joseph and Dominic Academy
Xavier High School
St. Rose of Lima School
Helene Fuld College of Nursing
The Chapin School
Metropolitan College of New York
Saint Adalbert School
Immaculate Conception School
Saint Francis Preparatory School
TSC Training Academy
Our Lady of Angelus RC School
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
St. Francis of Assisi School
St. Pancras School
St. Kevin School
Saint Helen's Roman Catholic School
Christ the King Regional High School
The Perfect Playground
Seton Foundation for Learning school programs: Mother Franciska Elementary School, Therese Program, Bishop Ahern High School and Joan Ann Kennedy Memorial Preschool
Our Lady Help of Christians School
Staten Island Academy
Blessed Sacrament School
St Rita's School
Our Lady help of Christians School
St. Clare School
New Dorp Christian Academy
The Jewish Foundation School of Staten Island
The Francis School
Administrative offices for Wagner College
St. John's University
JCC will have a delayed opening for Early Childhood programs (8:30 a.m. for daycare; 9:30 a.m. for other Early Childhood), but there will be no busing
St. Teresa's School
Hunts Point Market will be closed Tuesday night due to the arriving snow storm. On Wednesday it will reopen at 3 p.m. for employees and 9 p.m. for customers.
U.S. District Courts in Manhattan and White Plains are closed.