Early morning snow storm blankets Queens

By Jennifer Warren

Coated streets and roads were ghostlike, explored only by the adventurers who set out on foot to enjoy the rare whitewashed landscape.

Such a fall had not been seen since the Jan. 7 blizzard of 1996, when nearly 20 inches were dumped on the city.

The fast-moving storm quickly shut down LaGuardia and Newark airports early Saturday, while Kennedy struggled to stay open with one runway operating. By mid-afternoon, however, Kennedy was also closed.

Preparations for the storm began early. On Friday residents scurried to local grocery stores to stock up on necessities. At Waldbaum's in Bayside's Bay Terrace Shopping Center, Louis Kaufman stood before a vacant row of shelves that hours before had been stocked full with loaves of bread.

“Looks like most of the stuff is gone already,” said Kaufman, who pushed his tissue and toilet paper-filled cart down the aisle.

Waldbaum's Co-Manager Charlie Sladek said the store was “chaos” simply put. The store experienced three times its usual volume for a Friday night, said Sladek. Bread, milk, water and eggs were the first items to go, he said, then customers sought out rock salt and windshield washer fluid.

“Even when you prepare for it, it's never enough,” he said.

Ed Goldberg, a shopper at the store, was not buying into the hysteria.

“We think people are panicking,” he said while standing in the checkout line with his girlfriend. “It's just for a day or two. They're acting like they're going to be snowed in for two weeks. And why bread and water as if they're in prison?”

But for motorists, there was reason for concern. Several snow-related accidents occurred on the Jackie Robinson Parkway during the weekend. On Saturday, a car slid off the road at Myrtle Avenue on the parkway. Later in the day, one car rammed into another from behind, and on Sunday a five-car accident at the junction of the Jackie Robinson and the Grand Central parkways prompted officials to close all westbound lanes for a period of time. There were no serious injuries, said Detective Theresa Farello of police headquarters.

Mayor Giuliani, donning a city Department of Sanitation baseball cap, gave a news conference from the city's emergency bunker at the World Trade Center warning motorists not to drive, and if they did, to drive with extreme caution. He cited a spinout on FDR Drive, and reprimanded motorists for driving too fast. He also cited one of the earlier accidents on the Jackie Robinson Parkway.

Giuliani had spent the morning flying by helicopter above the city and praised the city's sanitation workers for their fine job in clearing the streets. He also noted that Kennedy Airport, for which the Port Authority is responsible, was “overwhelmed with snow.”

“The Belt Parkway and the areas around it have been cleared, but when you get to the airport, you see a big tundra,” he said. He criticized the Port Authority for being a “disorganized bureaucracy” that “needs to be done away with” in so far as the operations of the airports are concerned.

The storm provided a convenient platform for Giuliani's longtime feud with the Port Authority. During the past few years the mayor's office has issued several reports claiming the city airports would be better served under New York City control rather than the Port Authority, which is run by both New York state and New Jersey.

But most people spent the weekend muscling through their own snow removal ordeals. State Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Laurelton) who lives in Laurelton, spent Saturday night with his daughter clearing out his family's cars.

“We had over a foot here,” the assemblyman said. “Let's just hope it's not a precursor to a rough winter.”

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