Barely a week into February and already this one has been a doozy.
Two snowstorms have dropped a cumulative total of almost a foot of snow and the borough may get hit twice more.
The wintry weather comes after one of the snowiest and coldest Januarys in recent memory. Seven inches of snow fell Monday, followed by another four inches Wednesday morning before it turned into ice and later rain.
Early forecasts say as much as a foot of snow could fall this weekend and another storm is on the horizon for late next week.
Snowstorms socked the borough twice in January — once on Jan. 3 and again on Jan. 21 — and temperatures dropped to the single digits during five nights last month, the coldest weather the borough has seen in 20 years.
For struggling businesses, especially in less dense parts of the borough like Bayside, this has been a big problem.
“The weather affects my business,” said Dominick Bruccoleri, owner of Papazzio restaurant at 39-38 Bell Blvd. in Bayside. “People don’t want to come out in the cold, but I’m hoping for a better year.”
But in downtown Flushing, the snow hasn’t slowed down business.
Dian Yu, president of the Downtown Flushing Business Improvement District, said the streets there have been cleared well and the Lunar New Year celebration has helped to bring people out despite the snow and cold.
“Sanitation has done a real good job of cleaning the streets,” Yu said. “You can hardly believe there’s been a snowstorm.”
While parts of the Upper East Side and Staten Island are dealing with problems clearing streets, places like Hamilton Beach saw some much-needed help this time around. During Monday’s snowfall, a plow cleared the neighborhood’s main route, 104th Street, fairly quickly. Residents have often complained their community gets overlooked during snowfalls.
For seniors who need help shoveling in front of their homes, the Shin Kwang Church in Bayside is providing volunteers who will be matched up with seniors living in Northeast Queens who are in need of assistance with snow removal.
Volunteers of all ages can contact state Sen. Tony Avella’s (D-Bayside) office directly at (718) 357-3094 to offer help shoveling. Student volunteers will receive 10 hours of community service credit.
Despite earlier problems when times and clearings didn’t match up, at least in Ozone Park on Monday, the PlowNYC map was telling the truth. On 103rd Street, a massive plow came down the street at 4:20 p.m. — shooting pellets of salt onto the sidewalks and forcing shoveling residents to run for cover. Minutes later, the street was shaded green on the Sanitation Department’s map, indicating a recent cleaning.
Schools remained open during Monday’s and Wendesday’s storms, leading to some complaints from parents who felt the conditions were unsafe and teachers who had to commute. In many schools, the absentee rate was high.
One fifth-grade teacher from Woodside said nearly half her class was out during the Jan. 21 storm and again on Monday.
“Not much gets done when you have so many students and teachers out,” she said. “The city should take that into consideration.”
Elementary schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn did close Wednesday, their third snow day of the year, and several parochial high schools, including St. Francis Preparatory School and Christ the King Regional High School, also closed.
This winter has brought back memories of several brutal winters in the past, including that of 2010-11, during which two monster storms struck including the Dec. 26, 2010 storm that left nearly 2 feet of snow on the city and many streets unplowed for days, and the icy winter of 1994 when a series of no less than six snow and icestorms slammed New York during February and March.
So what is causing the constant barrage of snowstorms? The placement of the jet stream is pushing storm systems across the southern part of the United States toward the Atlantic Ocean, where they redevelop thanks to the moisture from the sea and explode into coastal systems. When the storms are far enough offshore, as they have been through most of the winter, the precipitation in Queens is all snow. When they are closer, ice and rain occur.
The storms will continue until the jet steam shifts north, which it ultimately will, but perhaps not for several more weeks.
And citizens shouldn’t expect warmer conditions soon. Some of the strongest coastal snowstorms, including the infamous Blizzard of 1888 and Superstorm ’93, occurred in the month of March.