NJ unprepared for snow: Kids forced to sleep at school overnight
WEST ORANGE — When Mother Nature gives you snowflakes, you make snowmen.
The staff at Liberty Middle School in West Orange turned the snowstorm into a slumber party for 531 students who were stuck at school because their buses couldn't travel the roads or their parents got stranded on North Jersey highways.
New Jersey has seen plenty of punishing snowstorm, but few have left children and teachers stranded in school buildings overnight. The storm dumped 4 inches in parts of Central Jersey and as many as 9 inches in North Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday was forced to explain why state and local authorities seemed unprepared for the season's first snowstorm.
According to messages on the school's Twitter account, students watched a movie, had snack time and then were served dinner by some of the 22 staff members who stayed to watch the kids. Parents came to pick up their kids as the evening went on but some students stayed all night, sleeping on gym mats.
Eleven buses that got stuck in traffic took students to the Chit Chat Diner for dinner before being being sent to Liberty.
The staff was up early and made French toast for the students.
Many of the parents could not make it to school because of icy conditions that stranded drivers on Route 280 for hours in the West Orange area. It's the same area where commuters had to be rescued by snowmobile during a storm in March.
"Chill" on Twitter said his nearly one-hour drive from Newark to Morris County took nearly eight hours.
"My final drive home was filled with car carcasses and one NJ Transit bus scattered along the side of the road," Claudio wrote.
"I have colleagues who slept on Route 280 or abandoned their cars on the highway.The only reason I was able to arrive home was because my car is all wheel drive," he wrote.
A tractor-trailer crash in Secaucus prevented two buses of first graders from getting home, parents told the Patch of Woodbridge. The buses, carrying about 30 students each, got stuck in the backup for over five hours.
Secaucus Mayor Mike Gonnelli told the news website that parents were individually notified by the bus company that police could not get through the gridlock to escort the buses. Parents said they got the message but no ETA was offered as to when their kids would get home.
Bridges and major roads in the New York metropolitan area reopened Friday after many closures caused by crashes during Thursday's storm.
Some drivers woke up in their cars Friday morning after being stuck overnight on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx. Accidents on the George Washington Bridge halted traffic on the crossing and led to backups in New York and New Jersey.
The delays for buses caused a logjam of commuters Thursday, forcing officials to close the doors at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal.
The wintry weather caused a traffic nightmare on a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania, with numerous vehicles stuck for several hours from the Lehigh Valley to the New Jersey state line. Police sometimes drove on the opposite side of highway, honking their horns to wake up drivers who had fallen asleep.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.