New York, New York - January 25, 2015 - Mayor Bill de Blasio: I want everyone to understand that we are facing most likely one of the largest snowstorms in the history of this city – in the recorded history of this city. The early projections for this storm are that it would easily be as much as two feet of snow, potentially pushing on closer to three feet of snow.
So, this literally could be one of the top two or three largest storms in the history of this city – and we need to plan accordingly. So, my message to all New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have seen before. Prepare to be safe. Take every precaution. Now is the time to get ready for this extreme weather.
It is so important to focus on safety in these next few days. Don't underestimate this storm. Prepare for the worst and we will all be able to get through this together. The agencies that are part of this effort – we're here in this sanitation garage and obviously sanitation leads the way in making sure we get through each storm – sanitation, DOT, Office of Emergency Management, obviously police, fire – all of the agencies will work together. They are already, right now, in a state of high alert, prepared for what will hit us starting tomorrow.
And I want to remind my fellow New Yorkers that we are blessed with the finest work force anywhere in this country, ready for emergencies, tried and tested and proven many times over. And these agencies are working together to prepare for what's about to hit us.
Here at Sanitation Garage Two – if you talk to some of these members of New York's strongest, you can see that they have a winning attitude, that they're ready for the storm. They've faced a lot of tough storms before, and they know what they're capable of doing, and they're ready to do it.
I remind you that the men and women of the Sanitation Department have 6,000 miles of roads they are responsible for clearing. That is as if going from here to Los Angeles and back. That's what they have to deal with and they are up to the task.
How is that going to happen? 2,400 workers per shift on 12-hour shifts – 7 am to 7 pm for each shift – and we will ensure that all hands are on deck for this crisis. We'll have nearly 500 salt spreaders out ahead of the snow falling. When at least two inches have accumulated, there will be 1,500 snowplows deployed to address the conditions.
At the same time, our colleagues at the Department of Transportation have their emergency pothole crews out already making repairs in advance of the storm. Again, these are blizzard-type conditions. We expect easily two feet, even the potential of pressing on towards three feet of snow.
And I want to emphasize, this will not just be snow. There will be very windy conditions. We expect wind speeds of 35 miles per hour or more. There will be low visibility. So, I'm going to say this today, and you'll hear me say it over the next few days – New Yorkers should not underestimate this storm.
Assume conditions will be unsafe. Assume that you do not want to be out in this storm. When you can stay indoors, stay indoors. When you can stay off the roads, stay off the roads. Use mass transit or make plans to travel another day, but try with everything you have to avoid being in the middle of this storm.
The storm is expected with initial flurries, late morning, early afternoon tomorrow, increasingly heavy going into Monday evening, and then continuing on into early Tuesday. We'll be constantly monitoring the storm and its path. We're in constant touch with the National Weather Service. We also know that storms are unpredictable. They can change – they can get bigger, they can get smaller, they can get faster, they can get slower. We are going to be ready for different scenarios. The one we're describing to you is the one we expect, but we're also being cautious and making sure we're prepared for the worst case scenario, not the rosiest scenario.
Now, road conditions in particular will be treacherous. There's no other word for it – they will be treacherous. So, all New Yorkers should stay off the roads tomorrow, because if you go out in the morning you're going to have to come back in the evening, and by evening it's going to be pretty heavy. So, stay off the road tomorrow. Certainly stay off the roads Tuesday. Again, use mass transit if that's an option. If you have the option to stay home or make other plans, you should do that right now. Make change your plans now in advance of this storm.
If you're even walking around in your neighborhood, expect unusually icy conditions, unusually slippery conditions. So, even walking should be kept to a minimum. We're asking people starting tomorrow afternoon to stay out of city parks. There is always the potential with rapid snowfall, the extra burden on tree branches, that you could have some branches coming down. We want people to stay away from the parks for their own safety. Every New Yorker should know if they have any problem with heat or hot water, we want them to call 3-1-1 immediately. If you experience a problem, we want to work immediately to fix it, but we need you to call. So anyone with a heat or hot water problem, please call 3-1-1 immediately.
I'm asking all New Yorkers to look out for your fellow New Yorkers. Look out for your neighbors, particularly if you have neighbors who are elderly or disabled. Check in on them – check in on them today. Make sure they have what they need in anticipation of the storm. Check on them during the storm to make sure they're okay.
We're announcing now that alternate side of the street parking will be suspended tomorrow, Monday. It will be suspended Tuesday as well, potential further suspensions thereafter, but definitely no alternate side on Monday or Tuesday.
Garbage and recycling collections will be suspended so we can focus on snow-clearing operations. Any questions or concerns people have, or if they need information, call 3-1-1 or go online at NYC.gov. If you have a real emergency, a life-threatening situation, call 9-1-1, but again, for information, for updates, 3-1-1 or NYC.gov.
The city is doing everything we know how to do to keep you safe. We're asking you to keep yourself safe and your neighbors safe as well.
One more important update, tomorrow – school will be open tomorrow, but there will be no after school activities or trips. So, school will be open Monday, but no after school activities or trips.
We will make a final decision tomorrow related to Tuesday, but it is likely that schools will be closed on Tuesday. So again, likely school closure Tuesday, but a final decision will be announced at an appropriate hour tomorrow.
A few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that I want to introduce our Sanitation Commissioner who is doing an extraordinary job supervising these preparations. We appreciate her leadership greatly and she will give you further updates – Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.
Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner, Department of Sanitation: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Obviously, we have been in full planning since yesterday. Our sanitation workers were already on split shifts of 2,400 for field, and actually over 500 that worked on prep of plows and other issues in the garage. In addition, we're bringing in the mechanics who will be working a split shift as well.
They've been doing an incredible job so far and they are the first of New York's first responders, so please let them get their job done. Please don't tailgate behind the vehicles. We really need to be out there. This is going to be an incredibly difficult storm for us to fight.
We have handled blizzards before, though. And while this is likely to be an historic amount of snow, we have been preparing. We are well-staffed and we have gotten a lot of support from our agency partners, such as DOT, DEP and the Parks Department who will be providing additional plows and front-end loaders for us.
I also want to thank Harry Nespoli, who's here from Local 831, who has been incredibly supportive of this administration and has said to me, to quote, "His members are ready to protect this city." So, I'm going to turn it back over to the mayor.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Commissioner. I mentioned earlier the 6,000 miles of roadways. The everyday upkeep of those roads – what makes life in this city possible – is handled by our tremendous transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, and she has been a key partner in preparing for this storm. Commissioner Trottenberg –
Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner, Department of Transportation: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And I just want to say DOT is a great partner with Sanitation, and I'm proud of the men and women in our department from our roadways division, bridges, sidewalks and ferries. We'll have 450 DOT personnel. They've already started doing the pre-treatment work on our bridges, on overpasses, and they'll be working hand-in-hand with sanitation on everything they need.
As they mayor mentioned, our emergency pothole crews were out today. They filled over 1,000 potholes, so we tried to get the roads in as good shape as possible in preparation for this storm. And we look forward to partnering with you and doing everything we can to support you.
Mayor: Thank you. Lastly we want to bring up our Commissioner for the Office of Emergency Management. OEM we depend on to make sure that all city agencies are working together to deal with this crisis and to coordinate with our state partners, our MTA partners, our federal partners – all the different parts of the equation that will help to keep New Yorkers safe.
Joe Esposito is in his fifth decade of service to the people of New York City. He's doing a great job providing leadership as our OEM commissioner. Joe –
Joseph Esposito, Commissioner, Office of Emergency Management: Five decades – I guess that means I'm old – okay. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Just to reiterate, the mayor really has articulated a dangerous condition – I’ve just got to recap. You're talking about a potential of 65 mile an hour gusts of wind. You put that together with the blizzard-like conditions and it's like being out in the polar during the storm. You've got to stay indoors at the height of this storm.
It's a blizzard warning in effect. We've been coordinating with 50 – over 50 – of our agency partners in the city, the state, and federal government to deal with this.
And again, we've been tracking this for the last few days. It hasn't gotten better – it's gotten progressively worse. Again, you could have a potential for three feet of snow by late Tuesday.
So, we've coordinated with all of our agencies. Tow truck task force is going to be put into place. We have the National Guard – we've been in touch with the National Guard to bring in some high-axle vehicles to help mainly with EMS, the FD, because we know in past storms we've had trouble getting down some of these blocks, so we're coordinating with them. We actually have a couple of calls out to FEMA.
We would ask, if you have the possibility – your workers, non-essential workers – if they could adjust their hours maybe to come in a little bit earlier tomorrow and get out before the storm really comes into effect.
You don't want to be traveling on a bus or a train 8, 9 o'clock tomorrow night, even 6 o'clock, so if you can adjust the work hours, that would help greatly to alleviate the rush and hopefully help Sanitation get an early start on this.
So, again, common sense – listen to your body if you've got to go outdoors. Don't go outdoors unless you have to. Stay off the roads. Starting tomorrow night, you should not be out in this storm or driving in it. That's the way to stay safe. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you, Joe. Just one more comment then we'll take your questions. So, this is a list of the top ten snowstorms in the history of this city going back to 1872 – almost 140 years. Right now, based on what we know – this is the third place – March of 1888, 21.0 inches – based on what we know now, this storm will unquestionably be more than that.
Number two, from 1947, 26.4 inches – could be more than that. Snowiest we have ever seen – February 2006 – 26.9 inches in one storm – literally could even surpass that. So, the reason I'm showing you this is so that you can relay to our fellow New Yorkers this could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before. We have to prepare with that in mind.
Whatever normal safety precautions you take in advance of a storm, take even more. Be even more cautious. People are going to have to expect a lot of challenges, delays. People are going to have to be patient, but most importantly, be careful. Stay safe. With that, we welcome your questions.
Question: You say stay off the roads tomorrow, but if people are taking children to school you have to be on the road. How does that work?
Mayor: I think I'm referring more to commuters. From what we know now – and we will constantly update people – from what we know now, there will not be substantial accumulation until late in the afternoon. So, the concern would be for the evening return commute. That's when I think we're going to start to see real problems.
At this moment, this will not effect tomorrow morning – Monday morning rush hour – but it will effect Monday evening rush hour. That's why if people can avoid being on the roads in a commuting situation, they should avoid it.
Question: [inaudible] the MTA and the buses, are they taking any additional precautions?
Mayor: Joe –
Commissioner Esposito: Yes, they've been out on meetings and they're preparing chains. They have a lot of snow tires. So, some of the buses have snow tires; where appropriate, they put chains on; but, again, what they're stressing is the daytime rush hour is going to be different than the commute at night.
So you're all coming in at your normal time in that morning, some of those buses and those trains may not be available when they go home tomorrow's rush hour. So, again, they have extra staff on, extra buses, but again, if the conditions get that bad, there'll be less buses and trains out there.
Mayor: I just want to thank in advance – a lot of this preparation has been led by our First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris and his chief of staff, Dom Williams – I want to thank them because they have really helped, with Joe's leadership as well, to get all of the agencies on the same page in preparation for this. Yes –
Question: The preparation separates this day of prep from previous storms we've seen [inaudible] 12 inches, you know, storms of that magnitude?
Mayor: Yeah, I think there's more decisions being made earlier. For example, alternate side, we can tell you already cancelled; the anticipation – not the confirmation yet – but the likelihood of school closure on Tuesday. I can have my colleagues talk about other things, but I can tell you everything's being sped up in anticipation of this. Want to give an answer next, Joe?
Commissioner Esposito: When something like this happens – we do all the events around the city. One of the things that we're cancelling tomorrow night – it was our annual time when we count the homeless and we cancelled that. You know, a lot of personnel goes into that, and we said what's the sense in counting them when there's a blizzard going on? It wouldn't be an accurate count and it wouldn't be safe for anybody. So, we look at every event that is going on around the city and that's one of the ones we're cancelling.
Mayor: Why don't you stay here for a moment. We'll see how many –
Question: Maybe – maybe people shouldn't go to work tomorrow in the morning, because they're going to have to come home in the evening, and buses et cetera, cars will be getting stuck on the way back home.
Commissioner Esposito: Well, that's why we're talking about the adjusting of your hours. We think it's safe enough for the kids to be in school. We think it's going to be safe to leave school – even some of the after-school programs when the kids stay in school are going to be there.
It's the later night. It's going to start in the afternoon tomorrow. So, we're not telling people to stay home tomorrow from work. We're saying be prepared. Perhaps come in earlier, get an early jump on leaving. If it starts snowing, you know what? Pack up. Take a half a day off and get on a train and a bus and get home.
Mayor: Let me add to that. But I want to say, a couple of – I wanted – so, one, if you have to go to work, go earlier. If you don't have to go to work, you can telecommute, telecommute. If you have the option of mass transit rather than your car, use mass transit.
So, the point is people should take very seriously the evening rush hour is going to be a huge problem – telling people that right now. If you can avoid it or if you can get ahead of it, that is far preferable for yourself and also for your fellow New Yorkers.
Question: [inaudible] any delays regarding public transit? I mean, is it going to get to that point – ?
Question: [inaudible] shut down the subway system or buses?
Mayor: Again, I'm going to try and be clear – this could be the biggest snowstorm in the history of this city. Yes, there will be delays of everything. So, the point is, we're asking everyone's participation to get ahead of this.
The more we get people off the roads, the fewer people move around, the better chance that these hardworking men can get out there and clear the roads, and we can restore normalcy as quickly as possible.
But by definition, if it's one of the worst snowstorms we've ever seen, there will be a lot of delays.
Question: I'm just wondering if there's a rubric you use for cancelling bus service? Let’s say, if it gets to a foot of snow – is that when you cancel bus service or how does that work?
Commissioner Trottenberg: I think the MTA doesn't necessarily have a magic number where they cancel all bus service, but they’re – they've already informed us they're going to be looking at their operations throughout the day, and I think they'll be observing conditions on the ground. But if they see a lot of their buses are starting to get stuck, then they're going to have to start to reduce service, particularly starting with the articulated buses, which often have the hardest time maneuvering in the snow.
Mayor: We saw in the snowstorm back in 2010 a huge problem with buses. We saw in some of the storms early last year – less bad than 2010, but still some problems with buses. We've had a good dialogue with MTA about pulling the buses back earlier as we see those problems occur.
So, I think the goal is to keep them out as long as they can function well, but when we sense there's any possibility of a domino effect of buses getting stuck and that making it impossible for sanitation to do their work, that's when we're going to push hard to get those buses in. I think the MTA's very much on the same page with us.
Question: What about the homeless population in the city? Will there be any additional services [inaudible]?
Mayor: It's a Code Blue situation, which means that anyone who appears at a shelter will be automatically welcomed – and that will continue for the next few days for sure.
Question: [inaudible] you sending city workers home – non-essential city workers?
Mayor: Let's get Joe, Tony. Non-essential city workers tomorrow?
Commissioner Esposito: City workers have to come in. That's the bottom line. They come in – if they come, they get paid; if not, they take a day off. We're expecting them to show up, but again, we have capability in this city to use flexible hours and we're asking them all to deal with their supervisor and perhaps do that. If you're non-essential, we want you to come in, work an early tour, and go home.
Commissioner Esposito: Yeah.
Commissioner Esposito: Yeah – just with construction in general, we've put notices out to the construction companies. Get all your stuff off the scaffolding, things like that. We've suspended a lot of street construction. We've done a lot of that – cutting back on all of that – to be better prepared.
Commissioner Esposito: Yeah, well, look – a lot of the lines are going to be down. Again, if they're outdoor trains, they're going to be down. When this – if this storm gets to the magnitude that they're projecting, there are going to be a lot of breaks in city service.
Mayor: Right. And let me just say that to clarify the difference between what we know today at this moment between Monday and Tuesday. For a part of Monday, things are going to be relatively normal and then it's going to get worse as the afternoon progresses.
By rush hour tomorrow, Monday, we expect to have a serious problem on our hands. We'll wake up in the morning – at this moment things will seem normal – snow will start in the course of the day. By the time you get to rush hour tomorrow, Monday, you expect to be deep into a storm.
Tuesday is going to be a very difficult situation because if it's anything like this kind accumulation it's going to make a lot of things very, very hard to work. So, you know, expect to see on Tuesday a situation where a lot of things are going to have be changed based on this storm.
Hold on. We have to get to everyone.
Mayor: Are there what?
Commissioner Garcia: So this city is divided up into priority or critical routes. Those routes are the major highways in the city as well as the very large avenues – include hospitals, police precincts, schools. In addition, we focus first on hilly areas because we know if we're not into the hilly areas we will get behind, and so those get hit first as well.
And then we move into the other streets across the different burrows.
Question: [inaudible] Can you say the number of plows one more time? How many plows again are you expecting to be on the roads? Can you tell us also –
Mayor: Hold on one sec – hold on. One thing at a time. Come on up for the final question, you've done well.
Commissioner Garcia: So, there will be over 2,100 sanitation plows and there'll be another 242 plows from other agencies and contractors available to us. They have all been notified and they are all starting tomorrow on either at 4 pm or 7 pm.
Question: In case of power outages or widespread power outages throughout the city. Is there a contingency plan that your administration has put in place?
Commissioner Esposito: We've dealt with Con Ed on this and we would expect where there are – luckily, I don't think it will be a major icing condition on the lines, but with the high winds you could have some of the overhead lines get knocked out. We expect that there will be some temporary blackouts in the areas that have overhead lines and Con Ed has extra crews on. They're ready to deal with that.
Question: Are you setting up provisional shelters or any locations?
Commissioner Esposito: As needed – we're prepared to open them up as needed.
Question: Off topic –
Mayor: We're staying on topic. I'm sorry – staying on topic.
Mayor: No storm? Going once – okay, I just conclude that we really need to get the point across to people to change your plans, change your behavior, change your approach, starting right now.
People who hear this message can alter their plans for tomorrow, and certainly for Tuesday, and make sure that everyone is safe in the process. So this is, again, an unprecedented storm. We have to prepare that way. We have to get ready right now. Thank you, everyone.
Question: Can you talk about the shooting at Home Depot.
Phil Walzak: One second please. One second please.
Mayor: We just have – yeah – we just have very initial details – the shooting at the Home Depot on 23rd Street. The shooter then committed suicide. From everything we know so far the victim worked at the store – is at Bellevue now in critical condition. Though that's very preliminary information. Okay? Thanks, everyone.
Question: Another question.
Phil Walzak: No, no – we're done. Thank you, guys.