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The Big Thaw: Snow Buildup, Ice Creates Menace On High Rises, Suburban Homes

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Yorkers dealing with one of the most brutal winters on record are now faced with new hazards: the buildup of ice and snow on sidewalks and the threat of falling ice from skyscrapers.

Sidewalks around many buildings have been cordoned because of falling icicles and rock-hard chunks of frozen snow, a situation that experts warn could get worse over the next few days as a thaw sets in.

“The snow starts to melt and the liquid drips off and makes bigger and bigger icicles, or chunks of ice that break off skyscrapers,” said Joey Picca, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

On Wednesday, large pieces of ice fell off 1 World Trade Center and onto the street below.

“It was coming down in big chunks,” one man told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern. “About five, six pieces came down in one shot.”

The tumbling ice forced authorities to shut streets in the area from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Southbound lanes of West Street from Canal Street to the Battery Park Underpass; northbound lanes were closed from the underpass to Murray Street.

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The closures caused traffic inside the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to be backed up for miles, delaying some drivers for hours.

“It’s really, really horrible,” a woman told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell. “Stopped still right on the West Side Highway.”

“I don’t think there’s anything else you can do,” Brooklyn resident Malene Duncan told CBS 2′s Elise Finch. “I think you have to divert traffic because it’s a safety issue. It’s really the only thing you can do.”

The same thing happened earlier this month. Streets around 1 World Trade Center were closed when sheets of ice were seen shearing from the face of the 1,776-foot structure.

Last week near Carnegie Hall, at the same under-construction condo tower where a crane dangled during Superstorm Sandy, chunks of ice tumbled onto cars and buses.

“Be very, very aware of your surroundings,” Picca said. “If you see ice hanging from a building, find another route. Don’t walk under hanging ice.”

New York City’s Department of Buildings has issued an alert asking building owners to clear dangerous buildups of snow and rope off sidewalks and have issued citations with a standard penalty of $1,000 for those failing to do so.

Another menace facing New Yorkers is the buildup of ice and snow on city streets.

Eight separate snow storms have left New York City buried under 57 inches of snow, which is tough to navigate especially in neighborhoods where property owners don’t shovel their walkways.

“People falling down in the morning and night,” said Borough Park resident David Lisaeur.

“It’s very hazardous,” said Midwood resident Arthur Treisman. “It’s very scary.”

Under current law, property owners are subject to $100 fines if they don’t shovel their property four hours after the snow stops falling.

But Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield is proposing a bill that would require the city’s seasonal hires to step in and shovel those areas and then send the property owner a bill for $250 or more to cover those costs.

“Frankly, my constituents are sick and tired of walking down the street and slipping and falling because some obnoxious homeowner has decided they’re exempt from clearing their ice,” he said.

Greenfield said the point is to get snow and ice-covered sidewalks cleaned and says fines alone don’t make that happen.

New York City has already spent double the $38 million set aside for snow removal this year.

Underneath some of that snow and ice are cars. Homeowners in Yonkers spent the day and night chipping away at muddied snow that was coating their vehicles.

“I really want the spring to come already. I’m sick of wearing layers and everything and just like, snow was taking up too much spots for parking in the streets,” Mariam Fanek told CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez.

The flood concerns extend to Bergen County, N.J.

As CBS 2′s Maggie Ruper reported, some residents are already dealing with the effects of warmer weather melting all the leftover snow.

“It’s pouring inside my house right now, the water’s dripping everywhere,” Oakland, N.J. resident Zulema Sanchez said. “It hit three different walls.”

Homeowners have been placing buckets and garbage cans to catch the leaks while workers outside have been busy clearing roofs and unclogging gutters.

“We just try to break the ice off so that the water doesn’t back up and get in the house,” Tom Davis said.

Sanchez said the water moved into her dining room from a tiny hole in the ceiling and soaked the floor.

“My biggest fear was mold and serious damage to the house but I’m hoping not,” she told Ruper.

Crews from Servpro specialize in water damage restoration.

“Guys have been working seven days a week nonstop, 24/7,” Paul Resetar told Ruper.

The thaw is also expected to affect drivers in areas where flooding is possible. Road crews are working to remove the snow before it all melts.

“It’ll take us probably a week and a half or so to get through most of those areas that will flood,” Village of Ridgewood Director of Operations Frank Moritz said.

Any low-lying area is at risk of flooding. Experts recommend moving any mounds of snow that may be surrounding your home.

“What they would probably have to do is just get out a shovel and go around the perimeter of their building and shovel off two to three feet away from it,” Resetar said.

Experts remind people not to drive through roads with significant flooding.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)