Screenshot of PlowNYC
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared on Monday a state of emergency for New York City and much of the state as Winter Storm Orlena continues to hit the area with heavy snowfall, over 50 mph winds, and white-out conditions. While many New Yorkers are already working from home, essential workers still have to get to work. With the city expected to get 16-22 inches of snow, the Department of Sanitation has updated its interactive PlowNYC map to see if and when your street has been plowed and salted.
See when your street was plowed last
Pierpont Street from Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Photo via Library of Congress
With snow in the forecast for much of the week, we decided to take a look back at the biggest blizzard to ever blanket New York City. On March 12th of 1888, a record-setting 21 inches of snow had been dumped on the city, resulting in snowdrifts of up to 50 feet, $25 million in property damage, and 200 deaths. Known as the “Great Blizzard,” it affected the entire eastern seaboard and is still considered one of the worst snowstorms in American history.
A jet snow thrower in action via MTA’s Flickr
With a forecast of up to 18 inches of snow, Winter Storm Gail is expected to bring more snow to New York City this week than the five boroughs saw all of last year. In response to the nor’easter, expected to hit Wednesday afternoon, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has activated its 24/7 command center to monitor the storm. The agency is prepared to clear subways, buses, and commuter railways of snow thanks to its fleet of super-powered snow throwers, jet-powered snow blowers, and specially designed de-icing cars to tackle the icy mess.
More this way
Photo by Eden, Janine and Jim on Flickr
Outdoor dining on New York City streets will be suspended Wednesday afternoon ahead of an impending snowstorm, the city’s Department of Sanitation announced. The “Snow Alert” issued by the DSNY says “roadway dining” must end by 2 p.m. and be shut down for the duration of the alert. The latest forecast from the National Weather Service predicts between 8 and 14 inches of snow in the city starting late afternoon on Wednesday.
Ephemeral New York brings us a particularly charming example of how New Yorkers found a reason to socialize even in frozen conditions two centuries ago. Sleigh carnivals turned out scores of joyriding city folk who wanted to show off their new super-light rides. James Stuart wrote in his 1833 UK travel memoir, “Three Years in North America,” that after a heavy January snow, “the New York carnival began, and the beautiful light-looking sleighs made their appearance. Even the most delicate females of New York think an evening drive, of 10 or 20 miles, even in the hardest frost, conducive to their amusement and health.”
Sleigh bells ring
Photo via Marianne O’Leary on Flickr
The chance of getting a White Christmas in New York City this year is sadly unlikely, but not impossible. The team behind the Omni Calculator Project created an online tool that provides the probability of snowfall in major cities across the United States as well as the closest White Christmas–meaning at least one inch of snowfall on Dec. 25–near that city. While the White Christmas Calculator says NYC has a roughly 12 percent chance of seeing snow next Tuesday, there are four nearby cities with a nearly 50 percent chance of enjoying some flurries.
Dreaming of a White Christmas?
In the United States, if at least one inch of snow falls on the morning of December 25, it gets labeled as a “White Christmas.” While some states in the north and Midwest are the most likely to enjoy a snow day on Christmas, the phenomenon is uncommon in New York, but not impossible. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that provides timely information about climate and weather patterns, created a map that shows the historic probability of there being at least one inch of snow on the ground in 48 states on Christmas. The darkest gray shows places where the probability is less than 10 percent and the white areas show probabilities greater than 90 percent.
Is New York dreaming of a White Christmas?
For fiscal year 2017, the city budgeted $88 million for snow removal and has already spent $26 million. But yesterday’s dump of the white stuff could bring that number up to $54 million. DNAinfo reports that Comptroller Scott Stringer estimates it could cost NYC taxpayers between $19.9 and $27.9 million to dig out from Winter Storm Niko, which is based on the average of $1.99 million per inch of snow that the city has paid over the past 14 years.
Find out more
A real-time plow update today
With close to 10 inches of snow already on the ground and more to come, Winter Storm Niko is certainly making getting around a challenge. But before taking a chance and entering that winter wonderland, check out the city’s handy interactive map called PlowNYC, which tracks the progress of the Department of Sanitation’s 2,300 salt spreaders and plows.
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If you’re trying to get somewhere this week and there’s a mountain of snow left by the weekend storm in your path, Mayor de Blasio wants to help. On Monday, in response to complaints about businesses with unplowed sidewalks, the mayor said that the city would “definitely be focusing today on businesses that aren’t doing that–we will be applying fines to any business that does not shovel out” (h/t DNAinfo).
City code states that “every owner, property manager, tenant or other individual in charge of a lot or building must clean snow and ice from the sidewalks in front, on the side of and in back of their properties within a certain time frame.” The snow officially stopped falling at 3:30am on Sunday, meaning that anyone with shoveling to do had until 11 a.m. Monday to get the job done before the possibility of getting hit with fines.
So whose job is it, anyway?