IT BEGAN INNOCENTLY ENOUGH…THEN WENT ROAD!
WPCNR WEATHERWRONGO. By John F. Bailey. November 20, 2018:
In a news conference held Friday morning after the most bizarre rush hour commute last Thursday afternoon when flash fast-falling snow immobilized motorists throughout the county, Westchester County Executive George Latimer held a news conference to put the miles of lines of slipping, sliding “bumper” cars on virtually all county roads that day into perspective.
“We were humbled by Mother Nature,” Latimer said. “The snowstorm was a surprise to all of us throughout the county. As the snow started falling, (at 3 PM), there were indications it would be more impactful than predicted. It came from the south rather than the north, so the southern part of the county got it first and then the north part of the county received the heavier snow.”
Latimer said forecasts indicated at midday that the county would get only 1 to 2 inches. Instead the county received 5 to 7 inches in a matter of 4 hours. Up in Jefferson Valley, Latimer said about 9 inches were delivered. He said, had the county known by noon that 5 to 7 inches were expected, the county and municipalities could have deployed equipment by the time the snow started to fall.
Latimer said plows need at least 3-1/2 inches of snow to be effective, and the plow has to travel at a speed of a least 5 miles to move the white. However the jammed traffic kept the plows from doing the job.
Latimer noted that by the time plows around the county were able to respond to the unexpected intensity of the storm, workers around the county had left work earlier than usual.
Plows around the county were stuck behind unusually heavy volumes of EARLY rush hour traffic. The fast accumulation of snow at 2 inches an hour caused cars to slip and create more slippery conditions where cars could not start up from stops– slipping, wheels spinning, cars lurching left and right, unable to accelerate straight or smoothly.
Impatient motorists also tried to sneak into intersections (especially on Main Street in White Plains and on Route 119) blocking progress in any direction.
This undisciplined gridlock created backups throughout White Plains, Greenburgh and around the county, as well as I-87, I-287, I-95 and I-684.
Latimer reported the county deployed 40% more County Police to aid motorists.
The county received 2,724 calls from motorists stuck or affected by the traffic standstills. Of those 2,724 calls, 693 were “911” calls, and most of those were “rollovers.” There were also 150 abandoned cars (throughout the county). By 9 PM, 6 hours after the snow had started last Thursday afternoon, the situation had “stablized.” Latimer reported it took him an hour to drive from White Plains to Rye, usually a 20-minute trip, and “that was only because I knew the shortcuts,” he said.
He said the county is only responsible for clearing one road in Westchester County, the Bronx River Parkway.
The county has contracts with local municipalities in the county for those communities to clear county roads within their jurisdictions. The state Department of Transportation has responsibility to clear the New York State Thruway, I-87, I-287, I-684, the Taconic Parkway, Hutchinson River Parkway, and the Cross County Parkway.
Latimer pointed out that it is responsibility of local municipalities to clear roads within their city limits. He said some communities like Rye Brook had good police and plow coverage. He said the county DPW would review coordination in various municipalities to perhaps see how all performed and what might be improved in the future.
“Each level has to communicate how we can do better next time,” he said, and he intended to convene a performance analysis process.
Asked by a reporter why the Taconic was not cleared, Latimer said the county would be talking with the DOT about what happened on the interstates and the roads it (the DOT) was responsible for.
A police official said, in response to a reporter’s question that drivers have to be prepared for wintry conditions. He said
1.Be equipped with proper tires (snow tires).
2. Carry reflective triangles or flares to warn oncoming motorists the car is stuck.
3. Carry a fully-charged cellphone.
4. Always start out with full gas tank.
To that, WPCNR suggests, include a snow shovel in your trunk and ice melt or rock salt in your trunk in case you careen off the road.
WPCNR also suggests slowing down your speed in snow.
Allow more distance between your vehicle and the cars ahead, at least one length.
If your car is a standard transmission, use a lower gear.
If your car is an automatic transmission, use the lower (automatic slowing) gear.
If you attempt to stop, take foot off the accelerator, tap brake lightly and do not slam on the brake, it will spin you out of control and send you into a skid faster if you do that.