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U.S. Weather

As Snowstorm Hits NYC, Mayor Vows Action

NEW YORK -- Snow began dusting the city Friday, less than two weeks after a post-Christmas blizzard paralyzed the city and its airports for days. Reeling from criticism over a slow cleanup, officials put GPS devices on sanitation trucks and quality-of-life teams on the streets and promised to do a better job.

By midday, the National Weather Service reported about 1 inch of snow had fallen in the Bronx -- a far cry from the 20-inch holiday storm.

"We have our plows positioned in all five boroughs, but so far only in a very few places is there enough snow for the plows to do any good," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. 

"I realize there were problems with the city's snow-cleaning efforts," said Bloomberg, whose reputation as a pragmatic manager took a hit from the cleanup failures. "We want to assure all New Yorkers that we are doing everything in our power to make sure we don't experience those kinds of problems again."

"It's not going to be as bad this time, and he'll be prepared. He'll be fine," commuter Shannon LaGuerre said of Bloomberg.

"Last week it was terrible," added LaGuerre, an attorney who drives into the city from Stony Point, N.Y.

"This is nothing," declared Mohammed Hafeez, who sells newspapers above the subway in downtown Manhattan. "I want 30 inches so I can take three or four days off."

That's not to imply he enjoys trudging through lighter snow. "It gives me a headache," he said.
Three to 5 inches of snow were expected in the city, and heavier accumulation of 6 to 12 inches is forecast in parts of upstate New York, where dozens of schools were closed.

Streets and highways in southern Westchester County were wet but snow-free through the morning rush. Traffic was lighter than normal.

The new snow stuck to the old snow, covering dirty, icy plowed piles with a clean coat of white.

Majis Flowers of Greenburgh got off a bus at the Galleria Mall in White Plains, surveyed the wide, clear sidewalk outside Macy's and said, "I hope it still looks like that when I come out."

The Long Island Rail Road, which took several days to restore full service after the blizzard, was adding extra train service for the Friday afternoon commute.

"I won't drive in it. I get nervous," said Chris Greenberg of Lindenhurst, who was waiting for a train at Farmingdale to bring her home health aide job in Hicksville.

In Pennsylvania, the fast-moving snowstorm made for a sloppy morning commute through much of the state before giving way to sunshine and warmer temperatures by afternoon.

In New Jersey, state police were sending out troopers to more state roads than usual to help plow drivers. They'll focus on trouble spots from last month's storm where more than 500 motorists became stranded, Sgt. Stephen Jones told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Last month's storm dumped 2 feet in some places, and a new poll found Bloomberg's approval rating took a hit after the chaotic cleanup. The Marist College survey of registered voters found that 37 percent said he is doing a good or excellent job, and 60 percent rate it as fair or poor.

That's a major dip from October, when 50 percent rated Bloomberg as good or excellent, and 45 as fair or poor.

When asked specifically about how he handled the snow cleanup, 71 percent disapproved and 21 percent approved. The poll questioned 439 registered voters on Wednesday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The late-December storms in the East also caused the cancellation of more than 10,000 flights and delayed travel plans for hundreds of thousands of passengers. With Friday's snow in the forecast, major U.S. airlines were again warning of delays and cancellations and waiving the usual fees to change flights.

Delays of more than an hour were reported Friday morning at the Philadelphia airport and at two of the three major airports serving the New York area: Newark and LaGuardia. About 300 flights were canceled at the three airports, most before the storm, said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the airports' operator.

Many streets in boroughs outside Manhattan went unplowed for days, and ambulances and buses got stuck in the snow. Calls to 911 backed up, and some people who needed urgent medical care did not get it. The snow melted days later to reveal huge piles of trash that garbage trucks hadn't been able to reach.

The pilot GPS devices on 50 sanitation trucks in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said, will let officials track plows and also let sanitation workers in the field report problems, like stuck cars, with exact locations. If successful, the city plans to install GPS on all of its 1,700 sanitation trucks.

The city will also deploy teams from its street conditions observation unit, which typically looks for quality-of-life problems like potholes and graffiti, to monitor conditions during the storm. The teams will shoot video of the conditions on the streets.

North of New York City, government retiree Sam Worden, 67, was tossing ice melter like chicken feed onto the sidewalk and steps in front of his Mount Vernon home Friday morning, though the concrete was barely covered with powdery snow.

"Gonna get worse, gonna get worse," he said. "Last time, I was stuck inside for two days because the stoop was covered in snow. I'm gonna stay ahead of it this time."