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.
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.
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.
Snow may be piling up on the sidewalks as we speak, but we won’t likely be seeing more than they did in December of 1947, when a blizzard dumped 26.4 inches of snow on New York City. 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.” It took $6 million, nearly 30,000 workers, and weeks of digging and plowing to get the city moving again (you can watch a video showing what 99 million tons of snow does to a city of eight million people, ahead). 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.