Snow was expected in the Hudson Valley Thursday afternoon, but it came in surprising amounts and intensity. Many roads were at a standstill, others closed, and several not yet plowed or sanded when commuters hit the streets earlier than usual for the evening commute. Some officials say the state needs a better response to such storms while others admit they can do a better job of coordinating response at the local level.
Snowfall hit harder than expected in New York City, and in the lower Hudson Valley. Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day:
“When you took a look at the regional map, the roadmaps that are anywhere online, it looked like a person with varicose veins. Every major roadway was red. It wasn’t moving, And the bottom line is that when we looked at the major arteries, all the state arteries we have here in Rockland County — 59, 304,306, 202, the Thruway, the Tappan Zee Bridge, I mean, these are major arteries, 87, Route 6, these are all, and 119 in Westchester even,” Day says. “The bottom line is that these roads were not addressed. Look, I’ve been through a lot of snowstorms. This by numerical inches was not a lot but this was the most impactive storm I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Day believes the state Department of Transportation did not respond in a timely manner.
“The bottom line is that both in New York and New Jersey the artery clearing, which is the responsibility of the state, in my humble view, was not addressed properly,” says Day. “I do not believe they were prepared.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking with WAMC’s Alan Chartock on The Roundtable Friday morning, addressed storm response in general.
“We haven’t had significant issues upstate beyond the average fender benders, etcetera, that you would have,” says Cuomo. “We had, we were ahead of this.”
In Rockland, Day says blocked state roadways prevented county and town Department of Public Works from getting out their plows.
“So right now, I was just on the phone with the governor’s office a little bit earlier, what I am insisting on, and they have been amenable to, is they’re going to be doing a post-event analysis,” says Day. “It is critically important not to lay blame at this point but to find out where to affix responsibility and what to do to fix this so it never happens again.”
Day says there was a county meeting planned for Friday afternoon to go over what happened on the Rockland end and what could be done on the local level when main roads are blocked to ensure Thursday’s scenario is not repeated.
A state Department of Transportation spokesman says the storm intensified just as many motorists were beginning their commute home from work, which led to delays and some complications with snow removal in areas with heavy traffic. He says DOT was fully prepared to respond to the early-season storm and took appropriate measures to get ready. The spokesman’s statement also says DOT’s response in the Hudson Valley alone included more than 250 large plow dump trucks and 500 operators and supervisors, more than any region in the state, and DOT sent additional plow drivers to the lower Hudson Valley from other regions.
Democratic County Executive George Latimer says Westchester was hit harder in the northern part of the county, where the highest snowfall amount totaled 8 ½ inches in Jefferson Valley, in the Town of Yorktown.
“So let’s put this in the proportion of what it was. It was a bad commute. Certainly some mistakes were made, but the circumstances of the incident defined how well we could respond to it. So we have to respond to it better in the future but let’s put it into that proportion. I think that’s only fair to say,” says Latimer. “And that is on behalf of all those communities that had the direct responsibility, not the county, but on behalf of the Scarsdale villages and the Somers towns. Before people pounce on them, let’s look exactly at what their procedures were and how, in the future, we might be able to address that in a better fashion.”
Latimer says some 150 cars had to be abandoned, and there were more than 2,700 calls for assistance, nearly 700 of which were 9-1-1 emergency calls.
“The question is to understand what it is that each level of government does because each level of government has to look and communicate with each other and determine what we could each do better so when something like this happens again we respond much better than we did yesterday,” Latimer says.
Democratic state Assemblyman and Senator-elect James Skoufis also says there must be improved coordination among state, county and local levels for this type of situation. And, like County Executive Day, Skoufis says he’d never seen anything like the storm and resulting traffic issues. And on his Facebook page are numerous stories of drivers getting stuck in up to five hours of standstill traffic. Skoufis, of Woodbury in Orange County, called the state DOT's response to the storm embarrassing and unacceptable, saying he is in contact with DOT and is demanding answers and accountability.