While it’s been a snow-free winter in NYC so far, once in a while it’s nice to imagine a snowy January day in Central Park. 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?
The awning of a grocery store is damaged from the weight of the snow during the blizzard of 1888 in New York City. The blizzard March 12-14 paralyzed the city with about 40 inches of snow over two days. | AP Photo
As we shake off the remaining chill of one snowstorm and hunker down to wait out another one threatening to blanket the city and ruin our commute, spring seems an unusually long way off for the middle of March. Is this normal? But there’s nothing unseasonal about a mid-March blizzard. In fact, the record for most snow to fall in a day was set on March 12th of 1888, when 16.5 inches piled up in Central Park.
March is no lamb, and we ain’t lion
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared on Thursday a state of emergency for both New York City and surrounding suburbs as Winter Storm Grayson continues to hit the area with heavy snowfall, over 40 mph winds and white-out conditions. While some New Yorkers are enjoying a snow day at home, many have to trek outside to get to work. Before heading outside to deal with the frigid conditions, the city’s Department of Sanitation has released an interactive map, PlowNYC, to see if and when your street has been plowed and salted.
See when your street was plowed last
A jet snow thrower in action via MTA’s Flickr
No matter how Winter Storm Grayson is labeled by weather professionals–a bomb cyclone, bombogenesis or a winter hurricane–the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is more than ready to clear subways, buses and commuter railways of snow. The MTA maintains a fleet of super-powered snow throwers, jet-powered snow blowers and specially designed de-icing cars to tackle the icy mess. For this week’s storm, there will be 500 track switch heaters, 600,000 pounds of calcium chloride and 200,000 pounds of sand to melt snow and ice at subway stations.
More this way
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.
Find out more
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?
New York may be enjoying yet another unseasonably warm day, but 68 years ago today, short sleeves and sidewalk dining were completely out of the question. It was December 26, 1947 that the city experienced its biggest snowstorm ever—a blizzard that dumped 26.4 inches of snow on the ground. According to NYC.gov, “the City was paralyzed when the blizzard barreled its way through, stranding cars and buses in the streets, halting subway service, and claiming 77 lives.” In the end it took $6 million, nearly 30,000 workers, and weeks of digging and plowing to bring the city back to passable again. You can watch a video of the chaos brought by 99 million tons of snow ahead.
Watch the video here