Winter Blast: State of Emergency in Effect [AUDIO]
The brutal winter of 2014 marches on, with another round of snow and ice creating hazardous driving conditions on most New Jersey roads and the winter storm warning extended into early Friday morning. A state of emergency declared by Gov. Chris Christie remains in effect and the governor's office announced Thursday evening that there will be a delayed opening for all state offices.
"In order to allow ample time for roadways, parking lots and sidewalks to be cleared and made safe for travel, Gov. Christie authorized a delayed opening of 10:30 a.m. for all non-essential state employees on Friday, Feb. 14. Essential employees should report to work on their regular schedule," according to a statement issued by the governor's office Thursday evening.
The New Jersey State Police sent out a tweet at about 5 p.m. reporting that troopers have responded to 205 reported accidents and 508 motorist aids.
"Roads are re-freezing. Be Careful and Be Safe," NJSP tweeted.
Unnecessary travel is still being discouraged and those who need to drive are being urged to proceed slowly and with extreme caution.
Townsquare meteorologist Alan Kasper forecasts as much as 12 to 16 inches of snow north of Route 78 by this evening, 8 to 12 inches in the central part of the state, 4 to 8 inches in South Jersey and 1 to 4 inches along the coast. Much of the state will experience a changeover of snow to freezing rain and back to snow as the day progresses.
State offices and hundreds of schools are closed.
More than 5,000 flights have been cancelled at area airports --over 600 out of Newark Liberty and 800 out of Philadelphia. More 2,500 delays are also reported, according to FlightAware.com.
Speed reductions have been posted on the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike and Atlantic City Expressway. New Jersey Transit is reporting a 15-minute delay system-wide. Cross-honoring of bus and rail passes is in effect.
In his emergency declaration, the governor said he has "authorized state officials to continue all necessary actions."
"My administration will monitor conditions throughout the remainder of the storm. I encourage all New Jerseyans to drive carefully and remain off the roads if possible so that our first responders and public safety officials can safely respond to any emergency situations,” Christie said.
New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman Joe Dee said the state has seen a high number of "bad weather events" so far this year.
"It has been a relentless stream of storms that we've had to prepare for and send out our crews and send out our contractors," Dee said. "There hasn't been any breathing room between these storms."
Dee pointed out that last winter there were a total of 37 bad weather events the DOT responded to, which he says is a very high total. This year, however, New Jersey is already closing in on that number.
"We've already done 32 events this year and we've got a long way to go before the end of this winter, so it's been a very busy winter, not only for the DOT, but for all the other transportation agencies at the county and municipal level throughout the state," Dee said.
Dee said the department has already gone through more than 300,000 tons of salt this winter, compared to a total of 257,000 tons all of last year. Not surprisingly, the road salt shortage is continuing.
Dee explained the salt that is used to keep state highways safe isn't trucked in from Pennsylvania; it comes from all different parts of the world.
"We have several vendors that schedule shipments by ocean going vessels, so they arrive at various ports, and when a shipment comes in it's divvied up with many customers including the DOT, the counties and different towns," Dee said. "The state of New Jersey is working with the State Police Office of Emergency Management and working with the vendors. We're doing the best we can to get a good picture of where salt is most needed."
He also pointed out it takes multiple deliveries to recover your salt supply from one storm, but "the storms have come in such rapid succession, it has not afforded anyone a chance to catch up and replenish their supplies."
Dan Alexander also contributed to this report.