Bungling the response to a snowstorm can be big trouble for politicians. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie famously took heat for how the state responded to a storm while he was vacationing at Disney World. So it’s no surprise Christie’s successor Phil Murphy and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney are getting pointed questions following Thursday’s storm.
All over the Philadelphia area, gridlock reigned as commutes took hours longer than normal. It was even worse in much of North Jersey where many people reported on social media that it took them five hours or more to get home.
Mayor Kenney says Philadelphia didn’t treat the streets with a salt brine solution in advance of Thursday’s storm, because he says forecasters were not calling for much snow. Philadelphia outfits trash trucks with plows when it needs to clear the streets, but on Thursday it went ahead with trash collection. The city confirmed its approach was primarily a salting operation.
Friday Kenney said those complaining were overreacting. “If you think this is a snowstorm, you need to talk to someone from Minnesota,” he said “I think people get torqued up about snow too much. When I was a kid, it snowed, they never cleared the side streets because I lived on one, and we played inside the snow for a week at a time, without traffic in tunnels with snowballs and stuff. The snow’s gone within 24 hours.”
PennDOT’s Ayana Williams says they did brine state highways and tried to plow.
“If you’re in traffic we’re in traffic too,” she said, explaining why it took so long to clear the highways. “There’s no magical way for us to avoid the traffic and unfortunately school was letting out in the afternoon, work was letting out in the afternoon and that just caused high volumes at the height of the storm.”
Williams says they could only plow as fast as everyone else was driving, which didn’t help much.
N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy says the state had 1,800 pieces of snow removal equipment working Thursday. But he says they ran into … ahem … a perfect storm of problems.
He too blamed the forecast from the National Weather Service. Friday he promised his team would do better next time.
“We will do a very through and deep post-mortem on what worked and what didn’t work, as we have things to report we will get back to you,” Murphy said.
New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti says her team planned for a salting operation. When it became clear they needed to plow they didn’t have the right equipment in place.
“I offer apologies to all of our New Jerseyans who last night experienced a really rough commute home. It’s never the DOT’s intention to impact our commuters, our residents in that way,” she said.
Murphy says there was one death from a train colliding with a car and more than 1,000 vehicle crashes around the Garden State.
New Jersey Sen. Joe Pennacchio lashed out at Murphy on Twitter.
.@GovMurphy don’t blame #snowmess on the meteorologists, or the poor guy driving the salt or plow truck. You own this. This storm was not a surprise, but the State’s epic failed response was.https://t.co/TtU4tL3q4c
— Sen. Joe Pennacchio (@joepennacchio) November 16, 2018