"We were prepared," said Frank C. Carine, director of the Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation.
By getting the trucks ready and the salt loaded a day before the snow storm started, city workers were able to get out onto the streets quickly and take preventive action that kept the snow from making city streets impassable, Carine said.
The storm hit at about 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22.
"Everybody was on stand-by," he said. "We had the trucks ready Friday night, so that we had crews on the street as soon as it started. The secret to this is to get a layer of salt down on the street right from the start. That makes things easier later once we start to plow."
Carine said the department had about 60 people working, many of whom worked though the night, went home, then returned to continue on late Sunday.
"Some of the people worked 18 hours straight," he said. "But after seeing snow all night some of them needed the rest - you get something like a white out situation and can't see when you come into a room."
Predictions for the city had ranged from 12 to 18 inches. Carine said Bayonne received 18 inches of snow, and the storm reached its blizzard status on midnight Saturday into Sunday when winds blew at about 35 miles per hour.
While the department prefers to work at night since the streets tend to be vacant of cars and keeping the main arteries becomes an easier task, the crews were required to work against the wind gusts and heavy snowfall.
As of Monday morning, Carine said the crews had laid about 400 tons of salt and utilized about 30 pieces of equipment that included trucks, plows and snow blowers.
"It was tough," he said. "But by the time we were done all the streets were passable. Our game plan was to clear the main streets first, then hit the side street. The city is broken down into areas with different teams. We concentrated are areas around the hospital in order to keep those streets open. Then we went onto do our regular schedule."
Crews not only operated trucks, but also were sent to clear critical walkways, including pedestrian crossings over the Light Rail tracks and under passes. Crews were also sent to clear in front of city buildings, senior buildings and other areas throughout the city.
"Unfortunately on Saturday, there were a lot of people out in anticipation of the storm that we had to work around them," Carine said. "People were double parked and that slowed down our salting as we waited for the police to help get those cars to move."
The storm officially ended about noon on Sunday, but Carine said crews were still out clearing the streets. Mayor Joseph Doria and Council President Vincent Lo Re toured parts of the city with him to evaluate the situation.
City workers, however, were forced to revisit some streets because residents insisted on throwing snow from sidewalks and driveways out onto the street.
"Instead of waiting for the storm to end, they threw the snow back onto the streets we just cleared," Carine said. "That meant we had to do extra plowing."
Because plows frequently piled snow in front of driveways, some residents got angry. Carine said his crews also had to put up with residents who verbally abused the plow drivers.
"Our drivers had a difficult enough time without being screamed at," Carine said. "Residents just don't understand that we need to keep the streets clear so that fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and other traffic can get through."
As of Monday morning, Carine said crews are concentrating in clearing cross walks in the midtown shopping district between 17th and 30th Streets along Broadway and Avenue C.
"We're also using the bobcats to clear sewer grates so that when the snow begins to melt the water has somewhere to go," he said. "We have a lot of people shoveling."
Carine said the city is working closely with the Board of Education, whose personnel are involved in clearing school property and cross-walks near schools.
"The next step is analysis of the situation," Carine said. "Because of the volume of snow, we're going to have to start removing snow curb to curb on some streets."
He said he, the mayor and the council president will be sitting down with department heads to discuss what areas to do first.
"We're probably doing Broadway first," he said. "That means we will be making arrangements to notify people to get cars off Broadway so we can remove the snow curb to curb."
The city has several options for relocating the snow. Snow taken from the East side of the city will go to the Boat Ramp at 16th Street, where the city has state permission to dump it into Newark Bay. Snow removed from the East side of the city would be relocated to the former Military Ocean Terminal.
Carine said one of the keys to the city's success in dealing with this storm was the purchase of new vehicles over the last three years.
"We had very few break downs," he said. "For those vehicles that did, we had a crew for repair at the Central Garage," he said. "The biggest problem was with windshield wipers freezing. We kept a stock of those and the vehicles were back on the road in about five minutes. We also had a few bent plows that hit a curb. We had spares of those as well."
But the most credit, Carine said, should go to the workers.
"My guys did a heck of a job and I'm proud of the way they worked. They stayed on without taking real breaks then came back," Carine said.
Contact Al Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org