MAYOR BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON CITY RESPONSE TO WINTER STORM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2013
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered today at the Office of Emergency Management in Downtown Brooklyn:
“Well good afternoon, and I want to start by thanking our signer Pamela Mitchell for joining us today.
“This morning, I visited Sanitation Department crews who are on snow-removal duty. The winter storm is certainly on everyone’s minds, and I can tell you that there were a lot of plows on the front of trucks, there was a big snow melter ready to go if necessary.
“They had one plow that if we had ten feet of snow, it would blast right through it, but I don’t think we’re going to need that one. But let me update you on what’s being called Winter Storm Nemo and the City’s preparations for it.
“The current forecast from the National Weather Service – now keep in mind, these are forecasts, this is a reasonably unpredictable storm. It could turn further northeast or it could stall and give us more precipitation.
“Right now, as you know, outside it is all rain. There really isn’t any snow, even when you look at the grass it’s pretty clean. But the heavy snow is supposed to come in later on. The National Weather Service says that this morning it started to snow, turned to rain, back to snow this afternoon. Likely to fall in a fast and heavy rate – their words – during much of the evening and overnight period, with the heaviest snow expected to begin between 3 and 7 pm tonight.
“By the time the storm passes early Saturday afternoon, we’re expecting to have accumulations of 10 to 14 inches across the five boroughs, based on the latest from the National Weather Service. And higher local accumulations are possible.
“Now, all of that could change. The storm could move much further east faster, and we could have an awful lot less snow, which would be great. But we’ve got to prepare for the worst case, and this is what the National Weather Service says is the worst case.
“As widely reported, the storm is resulting from the merging of two low pressure systems, one approaching from the west – the Chicago area – and one coming up the Atlantic Coast – from the North Carolina area. And largely because of the coastal nor’easter, we’ll see sustained winds of 10 to 30 miles an hour, gusts up to 40 or 50 miles an hour.
“This combination of snow and high winds and the reduced visibility are hazards for travel, and it’s why we remain under a blizzard warning through 1 pm on Saturday.
“As New Yorkers know all too well, high winds can also disrupt electrical service in neighborhoods with overhead lines, as trees topple down or branches shear off trees and do serious damage.
“Let me just remind you, if you have a tree come down and there’s a power line down, don’t go near it. Don’t touch it. Pick up the phone, call 311 and they’ll tell you what to do and we’ll get a professional crew there to remove it. Power lines are dangerous, and every time we have a storm like this – or many times – we do have tragedies occur.
“A final potentially hazardous element of this storm is some coastal flooding. It is likely to happen during high tide, which will wash up at the Battery shortly after 7 pm and along the Long Island Sound shores of Northern Queens and the Bronx several hours later. The reason it’s much later there is that the water has to go around Montauk and come all the way down Long Island Sound before it hits Northern Queens and the Bronx, whereas the water from the Battery comes straight in from the ocean.
“Many of the same communities that were inundated by Hurricane Sandy’s tidal surge just about 100 days ago are likely to see some moderate coastal flooding this evening. It’s likely to produce the kind of coastal flooding that can be expected in these areas during such storms and people know how to deal with it.
“If your house has been damaged by Sandy and it’s still without heat, call 311 and we’ll be sure to find you shelter. And certainly, if you or someone you see has symptoms like uncontrolled shivering or disorientation, that may very well be hypothermia and hypothermia can be deadly. So anyone with these symptoms should get someplace warm immediately.
“Also, please do not use gas ovens or ranges to heat your homes. That can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning – which can be fatal.
“Now, as we do during all emergency weather conditions, our City has a plan of action for keeping New Yorkers safe, and we’ve already put that plan into motion. And I would like to describe a little bit about what our different City agencies are doing and stress some things that we would ask all New Yorkers to do.
“The first is: Stay off the city streets, stay out of your cars, and stay in your homes while the worst of this storm is on us. That’s for your own protection during potentially hazardous outdoor conditions. It is why we’ve cancelled all Friday after school activities, including Public School Athletic League games. Saturday classes and activities at public schools have also been cancelled.
“Staying off the streets will make it easier for City workers to clear the streets of snow so that emergency vehicles can use them.
“Any vehicles found to be blocking roadways or impeding the flow of traffic will be subject to towing at the owner’s expense. And by keeping ourselves out of harm’s way, we’ll reduce the hazards our first responders have to confront, as well, so there’s double value in doing this.
“Also, there is no need to do panic buying of gas for your cars; all indications are the gas supply is plentiful and deliveries will not be disrupted.
“Tonight, what’s a good idea? Cook a meal, stay home, read a good book, watch a movie, just take it easy.
“Remember, there are a lot of people who are going to be out there shoveling the snow and trying to plow it to the side, and just don’t want to get in their way. And also, if you’re out there shoveling snow, be careful, don’t over-exert yourself with that task. This snow can be very heavy snow, very wet snow, and you really can strain yourself or worse.
“Also, as I said this morning on my radio show, it’s good to look at your neighbors who may need a little extra help getting through the next several days.
“If you see someone homeless on the streets or in a public place, just pick up the phone, call 311. This is no night to be out in the elements, and we will send a staff right away to help that person.
“Last night, I did order all Department of Homeless Services staff to double their outreach efforts to protect unsheltered New Yorkers. That will be true tonight as well.
“During this high alert period, Homeless Services staff will check on vulnerable clients every two hours – or four times per shift. And we are putting on an additional number of outreach vans on the streets to respond to 311 calls.
“Also, please use 911 wisely – only for genuine emergencies requiring a response from the police, firefighters, or emergency service vehicles. Use 311 for all other calls or inquires to City agencies; we’ve brought in additional 311 call-takers to handle what we expect to be a higher than normal volume of calls.
“But if you want to know whether the plow is coming or whether the schools are closed and that sort of thing, do not use 911. When you do it, somebody with a real emergency can’t get through and they may suffer and may die.
“Let me walk through what City agencies are doing in response to the storm, starting with preparing to clear streets and highways of snow.
“City Sanitation workers are on a full mobilization, and have been since Thursday night. They’re on 12-hour shifts. The Sanitation Department will deploy something like 1,700 snow plows and 65 front-end loaders. It also has 450 salt spreaders already deployed. And the Department has made arrangements with private sector contractors to pull in more than 100 pieces of additional heavy equipment for cleaning residential streets.
“The Sanitation Department plows, as you know, are now GPS-equipped, and New Yorkers can track the progress of snow removal in their neighborhood online at nyc.gov using the ‘Plow NYC’ feature. I have used it myself.
“The way it basically works is you put in your address and it’s updated only once every half an hour, but we color code the streets. When the plow goes down it stays one color for the first hour, then it switches to another color, then to another color, and it really gives you what you need to know, whether or not you’ve been plowed.
“At the Sanitation garages, they have a much more sophisticated and hard to use version of that where they can actually talk to and know where every single plow is, knowing the number of the plow, and you can look up the name of the driver and know how fast they’re going and all that kind of information that’s useful for managing the plowing and sanding fleet. But in terms of the public, we want something that’s simple and it does work. Plug in your address, be careful to do it accurately, and you will find out when the last time a plow went down your street.
“The Departments of Parks, Environmental Protection, and Transportation, those three departments, are supplementing, you should know, the snow removal effort with their own equipment. The Transportation Department also has 17 anti-icing vehicles working on the roadways on the East River Bridges.
“In addition, the NYPD has a fleet of 95 tow trucks on the streets and prepared to remove stalled vehicles, with additional tow trucks being deployed by the Departments of Transportation and Parks. And we have also 31 private tow trucks included in this force. So we’ve got a whole system of pulling together all the resources, all the tow trucks, and we certainly think we have enough.
“Finally, to assist with snow removal, street cleaning and parking meter regulations will be suspended citywide today and tomorrow. [Note: Parking meter regulations are still in effect today but will be suspended tomorrow.]
“Tonight, the Fire Department will have 100 additional ambulances on the streets; they’ll have snow chains on their tires and snow removal equipment and other special equipment on board. And because snow conditions can make fighting fires even more difficult, the FDNY has added an additional firefighter to each of their engine units starting with tonight’s tours of duty.
“Because of the likelihood of moderate coastal flooding, the FDNY also has prepositioned a number of its waterborne rescue units in the city’s low-lying coastal areas. The NYPD has Emergency Services Units in these areas as well, and they’ll be beefing up police patrols in those neighborhoods.
“The Police Department will also be putting additional highway patrol units on duty to help stranded motorists. But what would be great is if you left work early today, got home, parked your car in a legal parking place, and if you have to go around use mass transit. What we don’t want are cars getting stuck in the middle of the road. That keeps us from plowing and it just, if you’ll pardon the pun, snowballs the problem. You’ve got to get home safely, rush hour, but get your car off the street or to the side of the road where it’s parked and that will help everybody.
“As to mass transit, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to the State agency. The MTA believes that underground subway service will be operating close to normal throughout the rush hour today. And after that, some trains will be stored underground for safety, and much of the rest will offer local service only. It is also likely that MTA bus service will be reduced as the snow intensifies, and for the duration of the storm.
“For example, they will not be operating these big articulated buses. They’re just so big that the wind can push them around, and so the bus service may be curtailed to some extent. If there is a subway where you’re going, I would suggest that you take that.
“The MTA also has put on extra commuter trains ahead of the normal evening rush hour and is strongly urging their riders to use them. Northbound Amtrak service from Penn Station has also been suspended because of the storm.
“If you look at the weather map, there’s going to be an awful lot more snow, it is predicted to be greater, north and east of where we are as you go towards Massachusetts.
“Our human services agencies are also responding to the storm as you would expect. By the end of this afternoon, all Department for the Aging home-delivered meal programs will have delivered extra meals to last through the weekend in case we can’t get there tomorrow or Sunday. Over 15,000 seniors will receive this service.
“All City senior centers will be open until 3 pm today. However, we are encouraging New Yorkers to stay at home if possible, especially our seniors. And senior centers will be closed tomorrow, Saturday. So senior centers closed tomorrow, don’t go down and expect to find them open. Stay at home is a good rule.
“The Department of Buildings also has issued an advisory warning to property owners and building contractors to secure their construction sites, and tie down loose materials and equipment. Inspectors are performing spot-checks to make sure workers are taking the proper precautions.
“All permits issued to film crews by the Mayor’s Office of Film and Media Entertainment Saturday has been suspended. So we won’t be making movies, it just gets in the way of everything else.
“We’ll provide additional information about this storm as it’s available. For the latest details on City services and alerts, you can visit our severe weather webpage at nyc.gov.
“You can sign up on nyc.gov for Notify NYC text and e-mail alerts. And you can follow NYCgov on Twitter and Facebook. You can also send a text to 311 about any snow issues. The number to text is 311-NYC, or 311-692.
“For instance, if you text about a particular street that has yet to be plowed, a 311 representative will make sure that information is passed along to the Sanitation Department. But remember, we do the primary streets first, then we do the secondaries, then the tertiaries. And on the nyc.gov, if you go to Plow NYC, you can see how your street is designated – primary, secondary or tertiary.
“NYC.gov can also tell you how to volunteer for snow removal duties tomorrow if you are interested in doing that.”
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Contact: Marc La Vorgna/John McCarthy (212) 788-2958