NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — One of the busiest, most stressful travel days of the year posed special challenges Wednesday, as travelers on their way to Thanksgiving celebrations contended with a nor’easter packing rain and snow.
A winter weather advisory was to remain in effect until 1 a.m. Thursday for New York City, southern Westchester County and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
A winter storm warning was also to remain in effect until 1 a.m. Thursday for parts of the lower Hudson Valley, including northern Westchester, Orange, Putnam and Rockland counties, as well as for parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
As of 11 p.m., CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported Wantage, New Jersey, had seen a total of 10.3 inches of accumulation. West Milford, New Jersey had 9.2 inches; and Sherman, Connecticut had seen 6 inches.
Central Park only saw 0.2 inches of accumulation, although more snow was expected before the end of the night.
CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported in hard-hit Wantage, crews were working in overdrive to clear the roads of about two feet of snow that had piled up along some thoroughfares.
A majority of schools in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties were either closed or had early dismissals Wednesday due to the snow.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Hawthorne in preparation of the snow.
He said the state had 911 snow plows, more than 1,800 plow operators and more than 130,000 tons of road salt ready to help keep roads clear between New York City and Albany.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, authorizing state officials to coordinate preparation, response and recovery efforts with local governments.
“Today’s storm is expected to produce travel hazards and potentially cause power outages throughout the state,” Christie said in a news release. “I’ve authorized state officials to take all necessary action to prepare, and my Administration will continue monitoring conditions throughout the remainder of the storm. With higher than normal traffic volume due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I strongly encourage all New Jerseyans to drive carefully so that they and their families arrive safely at their destinations. ”
A total of 1,100 Department of Transportation and contractor trucks were deployed statewide, Christie said on his Twitter page.
Treacherous Situation Expressways, Other Roads
CBS2’s Lou Young and his crew came upon the first highway mishap within minutes of seeing the first snowflake Wednesday morning. A car simply spun off the Taconic State Parkway once the surface froze.
The tow truck driver who was called upon to haul the car away knew it was the beginning of a long day.
First snow wreck of the season. Taconic Parkway. Mid Westchester . pic.twitter.com/7T6MOQfdr9
— Lou Young (@LouYoungNY) November 26, 2014
“It’s starting to stack up,” Stalwowski said. “It’s only going to get worse.”
CBS2 found that it did indeed get worse trying to get across the Hudson River to Orange County. The Bear Mountain Parkway became a slick slalom for cars and trucks.
The driver of a semi-trailer truck hauling groceries ran into trouble when he had to stop on the icy uphill grade.
“Somebody got stuck in front of me, and I stopped to help him. I got stuck,” said truck driver Juan Pierson.
A truck with more traction and a heavier load of batteries stopped to offer a tow. That driver was annoyed that he didn’t have the wide, flat Interstate 84 available to him.
“One of the trucks slides off this hill, they’re dead. Why would you make trucks go on this road? Close this road and open 84 and concentrate on plowing 84. That’s why this is happening,” said trucker Jordan Zanlowski.
Zanlowski’s attempt to tow Pierson’s truck failed. When Young and his crew turned around, the tractor trailer was still jammed up against the guardrail with some traffic squeezing by, including a plow.
And the ban of commercial vehicles on I-84 Wednesday left some drivers scrambling to find alternate routes, CBS2’s Elise Finch reported.
“When you start re-routing, you don’t know where you could end up – you could end up on another restricted road, you could end up in a residential area; hopefully not under a low bridge,” said truck driver Kieran Glynn. “But we have GPS for that type of thing, but it’s a gamble.”
Several drivers decided not to take the gamble and stopped driving altogether.
“They only allow us so many hours to drive,” said truck driver Keith Killen. “I’m out of hours anyhow, so I’m just going to sack here for the night and I’ll figure it out in the morning.”
On Route 9 North, it wasn’t much better. A van slipped and flipped, and a towing crew was having trouble getting it upright – while drivers in both directions sat and waited.
“Because of the slippery road, he can’t get a grip on the road; had to tilt it back up,” said Fishkill police Lt. Tom Linder, who said police had tried to tell people to stay home.
A car was also seen rolled on its side on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Mount Kisco Wednesday, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.
— Al Jones (@aljoneswins) November 26, 2014
Long tandem vehicles were banned from parts of I-90 and I-87 Wednesday. And the speed limit was cut down to 45 mph on the New Jersey Turnpike due to numerous accidents.
And even as the storm wound down, many spinouts were spotted on Route 17.
Meanwhile in Mahwah, New Jersey, Seminary Road was shut down at Campgaw Road because of downed wires, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported. The cause was a buildup of wet, heavy snow on the lines.
Police were directing traffic and trying to keep people away from the dangerous wires. The pole holding the lines was also leaning over – very close to a home on Campgaw Road where a young man named Jacob Silverstein and his family were busy getting ready for Thanksgiving.
“It’s 50-50 for me,” Silverstein said, “because I like snow. It gets me out of school. But it’s coming down pretty hard.”
The power company said the utility pole in Mahwah had to be replaced, and because of that, many residents in the area will be without power.
And on Long Island, the snow, slick roads and spinouts were not seen on Long Island. But drivers there ran into their own problems with drenching rain and flooding, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
Cuomo urged drivers to avoid unnecessary trips, but said if they do need to hit the road, “to exercise caution and to check your route before leaving.”
Christie also asked drivers avoid traveling if possible. He said if you must drive, “please drive slow.”
We expect #Cato to get a little worse throughout the day. If you can avoid traveling today, please do. If you must drive. Please drive slow.
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) November 26, 2014
Some travelers did not wait for the precipitation to start before heading for their holiday dinner tables.
“I don’t want to risk it,” said Jenna Bouffard, who headed for her family home in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, a day earlier than she had planned. “I’d rather be safe than sorry, and if it doesn’t snow, then I just have an extra day at home with my family.”
“Hopefully we won’t get caught up in it too bad,” one driver told 1010 WINS’ John Montone.
Alan Kraus left Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night on his way to Danbury, Connecticut.
“My daughter called and said, ‘Hey, you want to come early and bring your skis?'” he told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams.
New York City Brings Out Snow-Fighting Gear
The New York City Department of Sanitation has issued a snow alert for Wednesday, meaning crews are ready with plows and salt trucks.
Kathryn Garcia, facing her first snowstorm as New York City’s sanitation commissioner, said 408 spreaders are dropping salt on roadways, but does not anticipate on using the plows, which require at least 2 inches of snow.
“We are in the middle of a weather event,” Garcia told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb and 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa. “Luckily for us, Mother Nature is cooperating, and it looks like we are going to get a lot less snow than anticipated.
Garcia insisted the streets would be ready for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“We will have additional staff on tonight. We should be at around 1,200 ’til midnight, and on the midnight to 8, we’ll probably be around 800, and we’ll continue to come down from there,” she said. “But we intend to have additional staff through the evening tomorrow.”
As CBS2’s Kozar reported, the precipitation in New York City was mostly rain during the 5 p.m. hour as traffic picked up. Unsurprisingly, traffic was tight on the Cross-Bronx Expressway, and some accidents were spotted.
New York City drivers fared better than some other drivers as the night went on, but the weather worsened visibility and slowed traffic making for a longer trip home.
“Our car died and we don’t know what’s going on,” said Heidi Perez.
It was a holiday travel nightmare for Perez, who was headed to her family’s house in Danbury, Connecticut for Maryland when her sport-utility vehicle died.
“We are trying to figure out in this nice beautiful weather, what’s going on in our car, so we can get back on the road,” she said.
AAA had warned earlier that traffic usually is worst after work on the Wednesday before the holiday.
Extra Service, But Commuter Frustration On Mass Transit
Mass transit systems also had plans in place Wednesday to help get commuters home in time for the holiday.
Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North will run extra trains out of the city through the afternoon.
NJ TRANSIT is also offering additional “early getaway” service from New York, Newark and Hoboken Terminal starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The agency will cross-honor tickets systemwide to ease delays if snow makes traveling difficult.
Additionally, the MTA and NJ TRANSIT have crews and equipment on standby to assist with snow removal for rail lines, buses and subways.
As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, it was crowded at Penn Station on Wednesday morning, but the departure board showed just about every train was running on time.
That’s why David Murray is taking Amtrak to Williamsburg, Virginia.
“The train is wonderful because it’s reliable,” he said. “It always goes through, even in bad weather. It may be a little bit late, but it always gets there.”
Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz says the company is ready for the weather.
“We’re pre-positioning equipment out along the railroad in case we need to respond quickly,” he said.
By Wednesday afternoon the crowds were building steadily at Penn Station, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
Sandra and her family from Queens are heading to North Carolina, where they will be among 30 relatives gathering around the table.
“Yes, my sister just bought a home there in anticipation of retiring. So this will be the first time that you have the family, all of her families together for Thanksgiving,” she said.
Air travel this Thanksgiving was expected to be at its highest level since 2007, but the impending storm led to hundreds of cancellations in the Tri-State Area.
Snow Won’t Dampen Joys Of Thanksgiving
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the storm was a big problem for many who were staying at home preparing for the holiday. Instead of helping his wife peel potatoes, Jose Rios was riding a plow and pushing snow off the pavement Wednesday night.
At least 8 inches of snow fell at his home in Middletown, Orange County.
“It’s not too bad — you know, 6 to 8 inches — not bad,” Rios said. “But it’s heavy – very heavy snow.”
It was heavy enough to collapse a tree into Rios’ above-ground pool.
But it was relatively easy to plow. While I-84 was closed to commercial traffic, there were two lanes in each direction cleared for cars for the Thanksgiving getaway.
“I give them a lot of props for what they did,” said Willie Cardoza, who drove from the South Bronx to visit his daughter and her fiancé. “They were really on top of it this year.”
And as Cardoza drove, Luis Negron cleared the driveway and Melissa and Sylvia Cardoza got busy in the kitchen. They were expecting 20 guests for Turkey Day.
“They’re going to be nice and cold – and we’re going to have all the warmth and all the love waiting for them,” said Sylvia Cardoza.
“Hopefully, they’ll make the commute, and they’ll make it nice and safe over her,” said Melissa Cardoza.
As the storm wound down, many spinouts were spotted on Route 17. But the snow did not bother some doorbuster die-hards camping outside the Best Buy in Wallkill.
“We have a propane heater inside. We have plenty of blankets and snacks. This is fun,” said Alyssa Rojas of Middletown.
The Con Edison Orange and Rockland utility said about 6,000 customers in the two north suburban counties were without power late Wednesday – down from 20,000 earlier in the day. Utility crews were to work through the night.
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