'Nobody Got This One Right': Snowstorm Wreaks Havoc On Commute

November 15, 2018 - 10:01 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Mother Nature caught many off guard as a nor’easter packing a wintry mix of rain, slush and snow made for a messy and disastrous ride home across the Tri-State area Thursday, tripling commute times and causing a mob scene at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

While the day started off fairly dry and cold, that didn't last long as the sloppy storm moved in and threatened to dump as much as 8 inches of snow across parts of the area before the system moves out. 

Initially, forecasts projected snow totals of 1 to 3 inches.

“This is a storm that gives forecasting a bad name, nobody got this one right," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told WCBS 880.

During the height of the evening rush hour, the Port Authority Bus Terminal was essentially shut down as riders desperately tried to find a way home. The second and third floors were closed down as mobs of people waited for buses delayed by the storm to make their way to the terminal. 

“It's been a hectic night, traveling from work and now stuck here wanting to go home,” said one commuter during the shutdown. She told WCBS 880's Steve Burns that she wanted to set up camp in a corner of the Port Authority ahead of an early morning shift at work and complained about the lack of updates given to commuters.

During the evening commute, the Port Authority's Steve Coleman told WCBS 880 that there were about 600 people waiting for buses at the terminal.

He explained that the buses were having trouble getting in and out of the terminals due to the weather conditions, therefore new customers were being restricted from getting into the bus terminals until Port Authority could "handle those that are already there."

"I think our message right now is if people can take any other form of mass transit whether it be NJ TRANSIT, PATH or ferries to get back to New Jersey they should do so," Coleman said during the rush hour.

Murphy commented on the situation late Thursday and recommended those left stranded in Port Authority "keep the faith and have patience" as they waited for service to improve.

Additionally, New Jersey Transit was plagued with service disruptions throughout the day and announced at around 6 p.m. that trains were running with 60-minute delays system-wide due to the snow. 

NY Waterway then began accepting NJ Transit rail ticket and passes along with PATH, which was cross-honoring passes at Newark Penn Station, Hoboken, World Trade Center and 33rd Street.

Signal problems briefly suspended westbound service between Jamaica and Penn Station on the Long Island Rail Road. Almost immediately after the issue was resolved, switch troubles then suspended service between Atlantic Terminal and Jamaica, as well as between Woodside and Penn Station on the Port Washington branch.

As the snow began to fall earlier in the day, there were multiple delays reported at area airports, including John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty.

Listen to WCBS 880 for traffic and weather updates every 10 minutes on the 8s

"This has been a tough storm particularly with some of the traffic accidents such as the GWB and the Bayonne getting closed that has made all of the feeder highways basically into parking lots and we've had some pieces of equipment stuck in those traffic jams," Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said.

The storm left a slushy mess on major roadways, causing major backups and traffic slowdowns. WCBS 880's traffic reporter Tom Kaminski said no matter where you were headed, your commute would be two to three times longer than normal. Several spinouts and minor accidents were also reported.

“The plows are getting there, but this thing snuck up, unfortunately, on everybody. But they’re getting there. We have over 980 out there right now," Murphy said in response to the traffic conditions.

“It’s a little bit of a slushy, sloppy mess,” WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported earlier in the day. He added that if you wanted to collect snow off the hood of your car, “it is excellent snowball-throwing snow.”

Late Wednesday, Department of Sanitiation Chief Keith Mellis told WCBS 880 that the city was prepared with 275,000 tons of rock salt to combat the winter weather.

“We have 5,000 tons right on hand, so we have more than a sufficient amount of salt for the season,” Mellis said on Sprint Street.

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Plows were attached to garbage trucks late Wednesday night.

“The department has all 695 salt spreaders pre-loaded and they'll be pre-positioned throughout the five boroughs,” Mellis explained. The department said drivers have been trained to follow the same routes as 2017.

Alternate side parking regulations are suspended in the city on Thursday to facilitate snow removal operations. Payment at parking meters remain in effect.

Utilities across the area claimed to have been keeping a close eye on the storm.

Additionally, PSEG Long Island said it has a "full complement" of personnel on hand to deal with any outages caused by the wintry weather.

“If the weather conditions cause interruptions to service, we are prepared and will respond and restore outages safely and quickly,” said John O’Connell, vice president of transmission & distribution at PSEG Long Island. “Whether it’s the first storm of the season or three consecutive storms at the end of the season, like we had last March, we are committed to providing safe, reliable service to our customers.”

November noreaster

The rain will stick around overnight Thursday but will taper off by Friday afternoon, according to AccuWeather.

This weekend will be partly sunny, breezy and chilly with highs in the 40s.