The forecast had called for wind and rain. For many borough residents still reeling from Hurricane Sandy’s wrath a mere nine days ago, it was a frustrating and scary forecast.
But the prediction 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 Wednesday afternoon and evening, paralyzing the borough during the evening rush hour.
For a few hours Wednesday evening, the Long Island Rail Road completely shut down service, forcing the closure of Penn Station in Manhattan. Trains were gradually reinstated during the night as fallen trees were removed from tracks throughout the system.
Thursday morning, delays remained on the LIRR due to the weather problems, though they were slowly decreasing and trains were running.
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 most in the city.
The snowstorm “added insult to injury,” the governor said.
The nor’easter could also 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 remains an issue in Queens because the system in which gas is distributed to stations took a hit from Sandy and many stations, especially in South Queens, remains closed 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 are 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 4-inch snowfall ever in New York City, beating a record set on Nov. 23, 1989.