New York defends storm shutdown

2015-01-28 06:15
Bill de Blasio. (Peter Foley, AP)

Bill de Blasio. (Peter Foley, AP)

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New York - New York authorities on Tuesday vigorously defended a decision to shut down America's biggest city for a storm that skirted the Big Apple, dumping the worst snow on Long Island and New England.

Travel bans were lifted, public transport resumed and parks reopened in the city of eight million people, easing many of the measures put in place as Winter Storm Juno moved in on Monday.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city got only a fraction of the 60cm of snow that had been widely predicted in the 48 hours leading up to the storm.

Nevertheless UN headquarters, schools, museums and numerous shops and restaurants remained closed on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service warned that life-threatening conditions persisted along the coast from Long Island into Connecticut and Massachusetts, where more than two feet of snow blanketed some areas.

"You plan the best you can and you lean toward safety," New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference under a barrage of questioning.

He conceded there were likely to be "some" loss of business, but said he had no estimates.

"It may actually have brought us back to full operating capacity sooner but I do not criticise weather forecasters. I learn," Cuomo said.

The clean-up is expected to continue until Wednesday, when schools will reopen, and city and state employees will return to work.

Broadway theaters announced that most shows would go ahead Tuesday as planned, after the Great White Way went dark Monday.

A 'no-brainer'

De Blasio, who repeatedly warned before the storm struck that it was likely to be one of the worst in the city's history, fended off accusations that he had been needlessly alarmist.

"To me, it was a no-brainer. We had to take precautions to keep people safe. God forbid this storm had not moved east, we would then have been hit," he said.

Had travel not been banned, city residents would have been in possible mortal danger, and any economic impact would have been far more negative had there been more destruction, he said.

"We are going to be very forceful in our messages to people when we sense danger. This is what you saw in the last 48 hours," De Blasio said.

On the streets of Manhattan, there were mixed feelings about whether the authorities had over-reacted.

"This is a mere dusting and I've been here for my whole life, with a little bit in London, and this is ridiculous, when they call it a storm," said financial consultant Curtis Brill.

Jennifer Daly, who comes from New Orleans but works on New York's Fifth Avenue, took it in stride, saying she was used to similar hype about hurricanes that do not always turn out as severe as warned.

"People do have to be cautious and ice and driving do not mix, so it's better to take precautions and not have accidents," she said.

Air travel disrupted

In the end, snowfall varied throughout the New York area.

County police confirmed that a teenage boy died late on Monday in a sledding accident.

Cuomo lifted the travel ban, which was imposed at 23:00 Monday, at 13:00. Limited service on city rail and subway lines resumed an hour later.

Service was expected to be back to normal by Wednesday.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also lifted the travel ban in his state, but officials in both states nevertheless warned against all but essential travel.

Driving bans were still in effect in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Flight disruptions are still extensive. Around 5 250 flights within, to and from the United States have been cancelled for Tuesday and Wednesday, according to

Officials said virtually all flights at New York's LaGuardia airport were cancelled Tuesday as well as most at Newark and John F Kennedy international airports.

In Boston, 85 percent of flights were cancelled, said

Thousands were without power along the coast of Massachusetts, including on Nantucket Island, where some were evacuated from their homes, local media reported.

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