Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Perfect Storm of a Perfect Storm

Yes, I know, annoying headline. But that is what went through my mind today as I read some of the analysis of what went wrong with regard to the city's handling of the blizzard. Here are the main points I have kind of digested -- including some of my own theories -- and will now share with you all. And I will definitely be posting more thoughts on this as more information comes out:

1. Mayor Bloomberg and his administration were coasting on a lot of positive media publicity in recent months (especially since the 2010 midterm elections and Bloomberg's national interviews as a potential future presidential candidate, etc..) and I think the administration had relaxed a bit too much. They let their guard down just once, but unfortunately for them, as we have seen, when you are running a city like New York, that guard can never be lowered - ever.

2. The Blizzard of 2010 was indeed a Perfect Storm, in every way:
Firstly, it was incredibly ferocious - the type of storm we really haven't had in a while here. This is what I was trying to say in a recent post about last year's winter. While we had a lot of snow last year, there just didn't seem to be any "umph" to those storms. This storm had "umph!" I was out in it for a bit -- see my photos if you haven't already -- and can testify first hand that this was a classic blizzard and packed a very mean punch. It was hard for me to walk in it, something I can not really remember in any of our recent snow storms. As a result, many motorists, more used to the types of moderate snowfalls we have recently experienced, thought they could drive during this storm. Many then ended up abandoning their cars, and then that blocked the snow plows from getting through.
Also, this was such a tricky storm to forecast, and it arrived during one of the worst possible times - on Christmas weekend. The blizzard warning by the National Weather Service was not posted until the afternoon of Christmas Day (Saturday) and the blizzard began in earnest by Sunday afternoon, just about 24 hours later. Up until then, there were increasingly worrisome forecasts about the storm. But if you recall, the forecast earlier in the week was that it would mostly miss us. I think they gave it no more than a 20 percent chance of significant snowfall. It's not hard to see how the City government was lulled into a relaxed attitude by these forecasts -- especially with Christmas coming up and everyone's desire to go on vacation, etc.. - and as a result they were so very slow to respond with a Snow Emergency and other appropriate measures.

3. The City's policy of outsourcing much of its snow plowing and car towing to private companies contributed a great deal to the plowing delays. As The Times reported, many of the private companies no longer want to even do these snowstorm jobs for the city. And because of the City's delay in requesting their assistance, some had even been hired by the local airports by the time they were needed to clear the city's streets.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I will offer more of my thoughts on this historic storm as time goes on and as more information about the city's response comes to light. But these are some of my initial thoughts on what happened and what contributed to the lax response.

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