Mayor Bloomberg: City is digging out

Travelers stranded by a severe winter storm wait

Travelers stranded by a severe winter storm wait at Penn Station. (Dec. 27, 2010) (Credit: AP)

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The fifth largest snowstorm in city history has challenged the efforts by the Department of Sanitation to get the streets plowed in large part because people had driven their cars despite admonitions by officials not to take to the roads, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

With snow totaling as much as 20.5 inches on Staten Island to 19 inches in lower Manhattan and 15 inches in the Bronx, city sanitation workers have been working round the clock with 1,700 plows and 365 salt spreaders. The Department of Environmental Protection brought out a number of plows to help the sanitation crews. The city is also hiring day laborers to try and clear intersections and cross walks, Bloomberg said.

"The world has not come to an end," said Bloomberg, reminding New Yorkers that Broadway shows were open and had lots of tickets available because of cancellations. He again stressed that people should take mass transit, particularly the subways, as he had done on Monday.

The mayor also said that for the most part the city had been moving ahead with snow removal at a rapid pace. Bloomberg said one subway rider told him that he saw a big difference in street clearings after traveling earlier from Long Island into Queens.

"All of a sudden you could tell you were in New York City -- the streets were clear," said the subway rider, according to Bloomberg.

But officials also acknowledged that the blowing snow, which fell at the rate of two or three inches an hour during Sunday night, sometimes negated the efforts made by the plows.

Another problem was caused by stranded and stuck vehicles which impeded snow plows, Bloomberg said.

"It just took a while to get the trucks in," the mayor said.

The unplowed streets had caused some backlog in responding to emergency medical service calls but that situation was resolved as stuck autos were removed, officials said.

Joseph Bruno, head of the city Office of Emergency Management, said sanitation plows were teamed up with tow trucks to remove stuck vehicles so the streets could be cleared.

Yet even with round-the-clock efforts, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said it could be another 24 hours before the tertiary streets were plowed.

MTA chairman Jay Calder said that a situation with a stuck A-train in the Rockaways, with passengers stranded for six hours, was something that was going to be reviewed after the storm. The stranded train needed to be moved by a diesel train, Calder said.

While below ground subway lines, particularly in Manhattan, were moving well, Calder acknowledged that there had been problems with trains in Brooklyn where a number of lines run above ground.

Asked why the city had not declared a state of emergency, as was done in New Jersey, Bruno told reporters that such a call is made at the state level. Bruno said the situation would be reviewed to see if a request for a declaration of a state of emergency should be made to Albany. But for the moment, it seemed like Bloomberg didn't think the situation required such action.

"It is a day like any other day," Bloomberg said. "There is no need for anybody to panic."

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