Updated Jan. 22, 3 p.m.
“Snowmageddon 2016” is nigh for Queens and the rest of New York City, which is now under a blizzard warning from 4 a.m. Saturday until noon on Sunday.
The National Weather Service predicts that between 7 and 12 inches of snow will fall across the region. The storm will be accompanied by heavy winds of between 25 to 30 mph, with gusts of up to 50 mph; visibility at times could be reduced to as little as a quarter-mile due to blowing and drifting snow. A coastal flooding warning is also in effect for the city’s south shore, with waves expected to be up to four feet higher than normal Saturday night.
The city and state governments are now mobilizing to keep the city moving during and after the storm. Mayor Bill de Blasio declared on Friday afternoon a winter weather emergency from 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday. He advised New Yorkers to avoid driving except in an emergency. The declaration permits the city to tow away any vehicle found blocking roadways.
“New York City is fully prepared for tomorrow’s storm,” he said. “We are constantly monitoring the forecast and are ready to deploy a major, multi-agency operation. From delivering extra meals for homebound seniors to de-icing our roads and bridges, we are taking every step to prepare our five boroughs for the coming snowfall.”
The Sanitation Department assigned 2,400 workers to work 12-hour shifts starting Friday at 7 a.m. to salt and plow the streets. Approximately 579 salt spreaders are being deployed Friday night in advance of the storm, and 1,650 plows will be dispatched once accumulations reach two inches of snow. Other city agencies, such as the Department of Transportation (DOT), will send out trucks equipped with snow plows to assist in the effort.
The Fire Department has 500 additional personnel on duty during the storm; all 197 fire engines will be staffed as of 6 p.m. tonight to respond to any emergency calls. The Police Department will also monitor its tours to ensure proper staffing is available, and its Mounted, Highway and Tow Truck units will patrol highways around the city to assist distressed motorists and move disabled vehicles.
DOT crews will also de-ice the East River crossings and pre-treat pedestrian overpasses, step streets and bus shelters in advance of the storm to reduce snow buildup. The agency also suspended alternate-side parking regulations for Saturday. The MTA also cancelled all scheduled weekend maintenance.
New Yorkers are advised to use mass transit to get around this weekend, but there may be bus and train service disruptions depending on the storm’s severity. The last time the city faced a major snowstorm in January 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended all MTA operations and Mayor Bill de Blasio closed all New York City streets. The city was spared the brunt of the storm — only a foot of snow fell in most parts of Queens, about half of what was predicted — and many commuters were frustrated that public transportation service was halted.
Cuomo gave indications on Thursday the trains and buses would keep running this time around. Additional workers are being brought in to keep subway stations clear of snow; third-rail heaters and snow melting equipment will also be deployed. He acknowledged that some express subway lines will operate local service on Friday night, as unused subway trains will be moved underground and stored on the express tracks during the storm.
The Long Island Rail Road will also remain in operation, although it may modify or suspend service depending on the severity of conditions, Cuomo added.
Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports will remain open, but travelers should contact their airline carriers for any potential cancellations. Cuomo said the Port Authority will have spare cots and essential items for any stranded travelers at the airports.
Those venturing outside during the winter storm should walk carefully and bundle up, wearing heavy coats, hats, gloves, scarves and sturdy boots. Shovel snow with care, and stop if you experience any pain or shortness of breath.
Residents who experience a loss of heat should contact their landlords or superintendents and call 311. Do not use a kerosene or propane space heater indoors, or use a gas stove to heat your home.
New Yorkers should also check on elderly neighbors, friends and relatives to ensure their safety.
Check QNS.com later for additional details regarding the impending storm.