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Post-Christmas Blizzard Lessons Learned, But Some Still Upset

Residents In Bronx Neighborhood Shovel Streets Themselves
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Morris Avenue, near 164th Street in the Bronx

This was the scene on Jan. 27, 2011, on Morris Avenue near 164th Street. Residents decided since they had not seen plows to shovel the street themselves. (Photo: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Sanitation Department is working hard to get the upper-hand on this latest winter wallop that dumped 19 inches on Central Park. They’ve deployed 365 salt spreaders, 1,700 snow plows, and crews working 12-hour shifts to clear the streets.

But for some New Yorkers, Thursday looked a lot like the day after the December blizzard.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he learned some hard lessons from the botched effort from the holiday storm. Crews were out in force, making sure Times Square was all clear and were expected to have all of the city’s main roads plowed by the end of the day.

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WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb with Mayor Bloomberg on the cleanup

And while parts of the city looked nice draped in a veil of white, some said it was déjà vu.

Despite the mayor’s assurance that all of the city’s streets would be addressed by Friday morning’s commute, many residents were annoyed about the streets plow drivers initially avoided.

“This block looks the same as the past time. Actually, this is like the back road. They don’t usually pay too much mind on these streets,” Bronx resident George Rivera said.

Just one block off the Grand Concourse, Rivera was digging out his car and watching neighbors slip and slide through unplowed streets.

“I haven’t seen no plows for the past two hours,” Rivera said.

It’s clear that the city was better prepared this time than during the Dec. 26 blizzard for Old Man Winter, but not everywhere. It was obvious how the street-scape changed from plowed to unplowed as CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer crossed Morris Avenue on 164th Street.

One thing Kramer couldn’t understand is that she followed a city plow for several blocks, but when it got to one block it turned off. What did she find on the block? People were shoveling the block themselves.

“I was trying to flag him to come this way,” Bronx resident Mariano Clemente said.

It made driving on the block an adventure, to say the least.

1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria with Queens residents whose cars were snowed in by plows

The situation in Queens wasn’t much better, as CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown found out.

By early afternoon, the major roads were more blacktop than slush, but side streets – and sidewalks – were a different story.

“There are some streets that are plowed, but barely anything is shoveled,” Williamsburg resident Sara Duerto said.

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Kids enjoyed a rare snow day, but many adults did not.

“The steps need to be cleared at some of their train stations,” one resident said. “Just getting to them is very difficult.”

Philip Pelligrino was out early, trying to shovel his SUV out from beneath a mountain of snow.

“It just never seems to end,” he said. “I haven’t even made a dent yet.”

While many residents spent the day digging their cars out in the city, the mayor said he didn’t want people on the roads.

“Motorists should please refrain from driving. If you get stuck, your car will be towed at your expense,” Bloomberg said.

New York City schools were also canceled Thursday, which was great news for kids, but even better news for the snow crews, as it meant fewer people on the roads.

“We got a heavy rate of snow last night. Over a foot of snow in five hours so that’s a heavy, heavy rate, but we managed to keep all of the highways and primaries open,” Bernard Sullivan of the Department told CBS 2.

The post-Christmas blizzard saw plenty of vehicles stuck in the snow. Fortunately lessons learned that day were being applied to this storm.

“Now that the snow has stopped, we’re moving into the secondaries and tertiaries, so we’re optimistic that we’ll get all of that done today,” Sullivan said.

Clearing the streets remains our number one job,” Bloomberg said. “We asked the questions of what didn’t work last time and if there was anything we could do differently.”

The mayor closed schools for only the ninth time since 1978 and was happy to report that so far there were no medical emergency horror stories like last time, when there was a 1,300-plus call backlog and hundreds of ambulances were stuck in the snow.

“There have been some vehicles that were walked away from. People have left in the middle of the street. And there are a few buses out there, we’re being told. We’re learning from the 26th. We’re leaving that block alone till they clear it with the tow truck and we’re continuing on our route so we don’t get stuck behind them,” Sullivan said.

NYC OEM Cmsr. Joe Bruno with WCBS 880’s Pat Carroll and Michael Wallace

The city’s OEM Commissioner said throughout the night, 85 ambulances got stuck in the snow  but patients were tended to immediately and transfered into other ambulances.

Despite the volume of snowfall from this storm, a weather emergency was declared but not a snow emergency. According to the Department, that extra warning was not needed.

“The weather emergency was perfect. It warned everybody. The MTA was proactive, I mean they called buses in at midnight when the conditions got as bad as they did with that heavy rate of snow, so I mean there were far fewer vehicles stuck,” Sullivan said.

“I think the emergency that was called was the right one,” he said. “Staten Island got the most snow but our teams out there are doing very well, so we’re not having any problems in any of the particular boroughs right now.”

“Most car owners heeded the emergency declaration that we issued,” Bloomberg said.

The mayor is so anxious for this winter to be over that he’s even going to have another go around with Staten Island Chuck on Groundhog Day next week. He’s even going to overlook the fact that two years ago Chuck bit him. Said the mayor:  “never forgive and never forget.”

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