NYC weather: 1st snow of the season hits the 5 boroughs

Facing mounting criticism, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday promised a full review of his administration’s handling of the first snowstorm of the season, which brought down hundreds of trees and caused a traffic nightmare despite relatively small accumulation totals.

The snowfall, which began around 1 p.m., picked up in intensity during the evening commute, creating a "perfect storm" that shut down the Port Authority Bus Terminal, closed the George Washington Bridge and snarled commuter rail and bus service, the mayor said.

"I am very frustrated with what happened. I think that it was a horrible experience for New Yorkers," de Blasio added, but he stopped short of apologizing or blaming specific city agencies. "There will be a full audit review of everything that happened . . . We need to do better . . . I’m certain we can do better."

Drivers were stuck in traffic on Park Row near City Hall during Thursday's snowstorm.
Drivers were stuck in traffic on Park Row near City Hall during Thursday’s snowstorm. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Dozens of buses carrying children home from school became trapped in the standstill traffic for upwards of five hours, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said. In all, about 10 to 12 percent of the city’s bus routes were considered to be delayed or significantly delayed in getting students home.

"The last student, with the help of the NYPD, got home at 3 a.m. So it is absolutely not the circumstances we want for our children," Carranza said, adding that every child got home safely and without injury.

By the end of the day, there were 6.8 inches of snow recorded in the north Bronx, 6.4 inches in Central Park, 5 inches in Rego Park, Queens, and Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and 3.8 inches in Dongan Hills, Staten Island, according to the National Weather Service.

"It emerged bigger and stronger than expected," de Blasio said. Initial weather forecasts on Wednesday called for a dusting to an inch of snow in the five boroughs.

Across the city, New Yorkers reported hundreds of downed trees, which not only posed a danger but also contributed to the traffic nightmare. As of 3:30 p.m. on Friday, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said 3,000 service repairs had been submitted in the city, which includes downed trees, dangling limbs and fallen limbs.

Silver said a majority of the calls were coming from Manhattan, which was "unusual." The agency brought in crews from the outer boroughs to help clear the trees, he added.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson apologized to New Yorkers for the city’s failings during a separate news conference Friday, during which he said the response to the storm was “unacceptable.”

“Even if we had got a bad forecast, even if the weather changed a little bit, we still need to do better,” Johnson said. “You need to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and I don’t know that that’s what happened yesterday."

Several people also complained of unplowed streets Thursday evening.

“Not a single plowed street anywhere on the Upper West Side or Upper East Side from Broadway to First Avenue,” Keith Hill tweeted at 6:42 p.m.

“I’ve got constituents saying it took them 4 hours to get home. And not a snow plow in sight,” Brooklyn City Councilman Justin Brannan tweeted at about 8:45 p.m.

Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said the 20-car crash on the George Washington Bridge during rush hour created a ripple effect of traffic that significantly slowed down plowing efforts in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Also adding to the traffic problems, many MTA buses got stuck on the roads because they didn’t have the tire chains that are typically brought out later in the season, the mayor’s press secretary, Eric Phillips, added in another tweet.

De Blasio said the MTA and other state-controlled agencies like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would also be included in the storm response audit: "It’s all connected."

The scene on Park Row near City Hall in Manhattan on Thursday. 
The scene on Park Row near City Hall in Manhattan on Thursday.  Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Ultimately, the mayor said he believes the audit will reveal some room for improvement but also show that this storm was "exceptional and unusual."

The city initially said alternate side parking rules would remain in effect Friday, but later decided to suspend them.

The clouds cleared out late Friday morning, making way for a sunny afternoon with a high temperature in the mid-40s, according to the NWS. The weekend is forecast to be dry with highs in the mid-40s.