Commuters, road crews prepare for snow storm
Commuters, transit agencies and road crews are gearing up for the major snowstorm expected to hit New Jersey on Monday night and Tuesday.
Meteorologist Dan Zarrow expects accumulations of anywhere from 6-16 inches to fall between Washington D.C. and New England which will slow down the roads, rails and planes tremendously.
New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Israel says his crews are "fully mobilized" for a multi-day event with about 2,600 pieces of equipment of their own and from contractors for the 13,295 lane-miles of interstate, US and state roads they clean.
There's already brine and salt on the roads from the weekend storm according to Israel, so salter trucks will hit the road when the first flakes fall early Monday morning. With the heavy snow expected on Monday night, the DOT asks drivers to remain at home if at all possible on Tuesday. Israel says the DOT's goal is to have bare pavement available as soon as possible after the storm is over.
Systemwide cross honoring of tickets on NJ Transit between trains, buses and light rail will be in effect Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The transit agency says they are prepared for the snow with two rail-mounted jet snow blowers especially in their rail yards. More than 750 rail switches, switch heaters and overhead wires have already been inspected as part of NJ Transit's preventative maintenance program to keep the trains going through the storm.
Amtrak plans on running a normal schedule on Monday but expects to adjust service according to weather conditions. Staff and equipment are being strategically placed to deal with any problems.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will have more than 200 pieces of equipment at its airports including melters that can liquify up to 500 tons of snow an hour. In addition, more than 60 plows and spreaders will be at work on the bridges and tunnels including 24 pieces of equipment dedicated to the George Washington Bridge alone. PATH trains will keep moving with help from plow-equipped trains, trains spreading liquid snow melt and a "jet engine" plow.
Many airlines were expected to cancel flights at the region's airports, including Newark Liberty, and travelers were being urged to check with their carriers before leaving home. Delta Airlines tweeted that around 600 flights were canceled at its northeast airports and travel waivers were being issued.
Airlines have cancelled 1,422 flights so far for Monday in anticipation of the storm, according to FlightAware.com's Daniel Baker, who expects the number to continue to rise as airlines finalize their plans, particularly for the afternoon and evening. JetBlue and regional carriers are the most impacted so far with 30-40% flights cancelled so far, mostly to/from the New York area airports, with cancellations beginning as early as 6am Monday.
For Tuesday, airlines have already cancelled 1,013 flights which should rise very significantly over the next day or two, reaching thousands of cancellations across the Northeast.
New Jersey Fast Traffic's Bob Williams recommends staying off the road if at all possible. But if you do have to travel, he suggests leaving plenty of travel time.
"Advance preparation can make all the difference," Williams said. "Gas up your vehicle. Check tire pressures and fill up on windshield fluid. Allow for plenty of additional travel time, lower speeds along with increased stopping and following distances."
Using lower gears, even with an automatic transmission, can help on icy and snowy roads.
"Most vehicles with automatic transmissions have lower gear options like D3,D2 or L. These gears allow your vehicle to stay at a lower speed without having to go heavy on your brakes to stop," Williams said.
The New Jersey DOT also suggests that besides an ice scraper and brush you should also have a shovel, kitty litter for traction, lock de-icer, flashlight and new batteries, extra washer fluid, safety flares, paper towels or a cloth, water and non perishable food items such as granola or protein bars.
Williams also reminds drivers it's New Jersey state law that all snow and ice must be removed from your vehicle or face a fine between $25 and $75. "If snow or ice snow flying off your vehicle causes property damage or injury to others you could be fined $200 to $1,000 for each offense."
Receive Traffic Text Alerts about incidents impacting New Jersey highways and public transportation during the storm by texting TRAFFIC to 89000.