De Blasio: NYC Public Schools To Reopen Wednesday, But ‘Dangerous’ Conditions Continue Into Night

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City public schools will reopen on Wednesday after a late-winter storm brought less snow than originally forecast to some spots, but officials are still urging caution.

The National Weather Service cancelled its blizzard warning for the city Tuesday morning. A winter weather advisory is still in effect for the city, Hudson and northern Nassau counties until 8 p.m.

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Huge numbers were seen as predicted in some parts of the area. CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported the snow totaled 26 inches in upstate Narrowsburgh, 23.5 inches in Montgomery, 18.1 inches in Stony Point, 14 inches in Mount Kisco and in West Milford, New Jersey, and 13 inches in Mahwah, New Jersey.

But far more modest totals were seen in within the city. The snow totaled 8.3 inches in the Bronx and in Hollis Hills, Queens; 7.2 inches in Central Park; 6 inches in Park Slope, Brooklyn; 5.9 inches at LaGuardia Airport, and 4 inches on Staten Island.

SNOW TOTALS: New York, Connecticut, and northeast New Jersey

SNOW TOTALS: Elsewhere in New Jersey

“What we saw here is a very different than what was projected, even as of late yesterday,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday. “The National Weather Service does everything they know how to do. Mother Nature still makes its own decisions.”

But as CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, Mayor de Blasio – despite breathing a sigh of relief – reminded New Yorkers that they are not out of the woods just yet.

He noted that despite the change in the forecast, a state of emergency for the city will remain in effect until midnight.

“The conditions are still very dangerous out there,” de Blasio said.

He said refreezing will mean that the conditions on the roads and sidewalks will be “very dangerous as we get into the late afternoon and early evening hours.”

Nonetheless, many were relieved at the relatively tame snowstorm that the city experienced.

“This is the lesson we keep learning. The National Weather service does everything they know how to do. Mother Nature still does what it wants to do, so what we got was a storm where the numbers that were projected occurred to the north and west of us — not here, thank God so we were spared some of the worst of it,” de Blasio said.

Public schools in the city and elsewhere were all closed Tuesday, but the mayor said schools will be open on Wednesday.

“The situation now is under control and we are certain that we will be in a position to open schools effectively tomorrow,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that because the storm ended up shifting west, there was less snowfall in the city and Long Island and more in the Hudson Valley and the western part of the state.

“Mother Nature is an unpredictable lady sometimes,” Cuomo said an earlier news conference Tuesday. “She was unpredictable today.”

The snow changed to sleet in the midday hours. It was back to all snow in Midtown late Tuesday afternoon, and was expected to end in the evening.

New York City’s Department of Sanitation said more than 2,200 pieces of equipment were sent out to clear city roads.

“I would caution folks even though the accumulation reports seem to be coming down, it is very slippery on the roads right now,” New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia told 1010 WINS.

De Blasio said as of noon, 96 percent of city streets had been plowed at least once.

But Cuomo added that it’s still “a day to be careful.”

“It is dangerous out there, it is sloppy out there,” he told CBS2. “In some ways, less snow and more sleet is more dangerous.”

Nearly all mass transit systems had delays, suspensions and cancellations. But most people made it to their destinations on subways, buses and the Long Island Rail Road.

“It’s really slushy, it’s icy, it’s messy but what can we do?” said commuter Maria Braithwaite. “We’re New Yorkers. We’ll get through it.”

In the city, the above-ground portions of the subway system resumed service at 6 p.m. after a 14-hour shutdown. Staten Island Railway service is fully restored. Express subway service is to resume at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

New York City buses are set to resume normal service on Wednesday at 5 a.m.

Metro-North Railroad service was also shut down, but hourly service resumed beginning between 6 p.m. and was to continue until 11 p.m.

Earlier, all Metro-North service had been suspended beginning at noon due to increasing winds and heavy snow accumulations. Service was expected to be back to normal for the Wednesday morning rush.

During the evening rush hour Tuesday, Grand Central Terminal was unusually quiet. There were just a few tourists exploring – including Debbi Wallace from Phoenix, Arizona.

“I guess I didn’t really know what to expect,” Wallace said.” I just knew there was a big storm coming. It came, and we’ve been running around in it all day.”

But commuters were glad finally to be on their way.

“I would have preferred them start New Haven service a little earlier. but it really wasn’t that big of a deal,” said commuter Adam Lustig.

“I would have left about an hour earlier, but trains weren’t running yet,” said commuter Harry Slotwiner.

For the Wednesday morning rush, Metro-North will operate a modified weekday schedule that will serve all customers with some combined and canceled trains. Customers should expect their trains to be crowded and should also expect train delays.

The LIRR ran all day on a normal weekday schedule, but the agency says commuters should expect cancellations as conditions worsen.

Meanwhile, as CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, road conditions were far from ideal in many areas in the city.

Even the biggest vehicle had trouble navigating Midtown cross streets Tuesday night. An off-duty city bus got stuck in the slush while making a turn from Tenth Avenue onto 54th Street – and the driver was forced to dig out the back wheels.

Along 53rd Street, it remained to be seen late Tuesday whether drivers would be able to see blacktop by the morning rush hour.

Earlier, the intersection of 39th Street and Broadway proved to be difficult for drivers – taxicabs included.

One cab driver was seen trying to get unstuck with the help of several bystanders pushing him in reverse.

Cab driver Melon Hossain said road conditions were “very bad.”

“I got hit four times. I got stuck — my car, and somebody helped me,” Hosain said.

There was also a mess on 57th Street near Ninth Avenue. Drivers had trouble navigating through the inches of heavy slush despite plows clearing the roads earlier in the day.

On the East Side near 44th Street and Third Avenue, a car got stuck. People passing by did their best to help push the car out of the slush.

And on the FDR Drive near 96th Street, slush was not the problem – but melting snow was. Two lanes of were flooded and had to be shut down to drivers.

Huge piles of slush were seen all around Midtown. They were pushed aside, but not off the roadway and ended up serving as obstacles to maneuver around.

One place that was cleared out was Times Square, where the Department of Transportation tweeted out pictures of crews cleaning up the sidewalks and streets.

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said fighting these kinds of conditions demands a different approach.

“It is a very different storm to fight, because you’re not really pushing snow as much as you’re trying to get it to melt, and the icy conditions can let New Yorkers think that it’s not going to be so bad out that they can actually drive around,” Garcia said. “But that would be misleading, because it’s very, very slippery out there.”

New York state banned tractor-trailers from most of its major interstate highways, including the entire length of the 570-mile Thruway system from New York City to the Pennsylvania border in western New York.

The ban included the Thruway system’s 426-mile main line, interstates 87 and 90 from New York City to Buffalo as well as the New England Thruway, the Cross Westchester Expressway, the Niagara Thruway, the Garden State Parkway Connector, the Berkshire Connector and the Erie Section.

Tractor-trailers were also banned from interstates 81, 84, 88 and 86/Route 17.

In Binghamton, where interstates 81, 88 and 86/Route 17 meet, Broome County officials declared a state of emergency and banned all non-essential travel.

At the airports, a total of 6,000 flights were canceled nationally, and nearly 3,000 of them were in the Tri-State Area. There were no delays reported late Tuesday because there were basically no flights.

Travelers are advised to check with their airlines.

For some people, staying home wasn’t an option.

“I need the money,” said Maria Lopez, 32, who was pelted with sleet as she headed for a bus to her Brooklyn house cleaning job.

“We’ve got to go to work, it’s mandatory,” a man told 1010 WINS’ John Montone.

“I have to say I kind of underestimated how crazy it would be out here,” another man told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

Broadway producers decided to keep theaters open Tuesday night for the hearty folks willing to brave any remaining snow and sleet to see two dozen shows including “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Waitress.”

Meanwhile, two new homes under construction near the beach in the Far Rockaway section of Queens partially collapsed during the storm. No injuries were reported, the fire department said.

On Staten Island, two ponies broke free from their stables and roamed the snowy streets before an off-duty police officer rounded them up and tethered them to a lamppost using towing straps before help arrived.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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