The forecast had called for wind and rain. For many borough residents still reeling from Hurricane Sandy’s wrath a mere nine days earlier, it was a frustrating and scary prediction.
But the forecast for a wind-swept rainstorm did not pan out. What did come, however, was at least as bad — or even worse.
A little more than a week after a storm brought tropical weather to our area, Mother Nature hit us from the other extreme — the arctic.
Four inches of snow fell on parts of Queens on the afternoon and evening of Nov. 7, paralyzing the borough during the evening rush hour.
The Long Island Rail Road was completely shut down for a time during and after rush hour, forcing the closure of Penn Station in Manhattan. Though the railroad blamed “weather-related problems,” the main issue was trees weakened by Hurricane Sandy, which had fallen or were listing precariously near tracks in Queens and Long Island.
Trains were gradually reinstated during the night as fallen trees were removed from tracks throughout the system.
Delays continued into Thursday morning on the LIRR due to the weather problems, though they were back to near normal by Friday.
The storm caused the accumulation of wet, heavy snow on already weakened trees and power lines. A number of trees and branches in places like Forest Park snapped in the snowstorm and some smaller trees crashed into sidewalks due to the weight of the snow and bigger ones blocked streets and lanes on the parkways.
The winter conditions were worrisome for many still without power in Northeast Queens, Howard Beach and the Rockaways. Some were able to heat their homes with generators, but many stayed with friends or family, or went to warming centers opened by the city. Mayor Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of nursing homes in the Rockaways and encouraged residents of Hamilton Beach to leave in advance of the storm, but no damage was reported from the nor’easter there and any tidal surge was relatively small.
In the Rockaways, the storm caused power to go out in areas that had just gotten it back since Hurricane Sandy. As of Thursday, 23,000 people remained without power in Queens, according to Gov. Cuomo, down from over 100,000 after Hurricane Sandy, but still the mostly in the city.
The snowstorm “added insult to injury,” the governor said.
The nor’easter also helped prolong the gas shortage for a few more days, Cuomo warned, because it interrupted delivery of gas from tanker ships the New York Harbor. The shortage outside the city and Long Island had subsided a bit. The shortage remained an issue in Queens because the system iby which gas is distributed to stations took a hit from Sandy and many stations, especially in South Queens, were closed into this week due to power outages.
The good news about the snowfall was that the low-pressure system stayed well off the coast, decreasing the duration and strength of the winds and tidal surges that were stronger near the center of the storm.
Coming after Hurricane Sandy shattered numerous weather records, the nor’easter also broke one of its own — for earliest four-inch snowfall ever in New York City, beating a record set on Nov. 23, 1989.
This is the second year in a row Queens has seen an early snowfall. Last year, nearly three inches of snow fell on the borough on Oct. 29. 2011 — one year to the day before Hurricane Sandy.