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Gridlock in NYC: de Blasio blames George Washington Bridge for traffic shutdowns

Travelers turn to social media to express frustration in long commutes

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New York City is famously known for its traffic jams, but it's likely no one ever expected the citywide jam that literally added hours to short commutes that plagued New York Thursday night.

"My daughter and three of her friends had to walk home from Bronx Science — three miles or so, because there were no buses," Eugenia Zakharov posted on a popular Riverdale Facebook page. "It took them close to two hours in the snow. It's appalling."

As bad as that was, it was just a fraction of what many experienced on the roads Thursday night as a forecasted six inches of snow fell on the city. Bus stops across the Bronx were crowded with weary passengers, waiting for transports that weren't coming. Smaller cars and minivans spun tires on the slushy road, made worse when the snow turned to rain. Most other vehicles would literally sit for an hour before even moving.

"Took me four hours to get from Greenburgh to Greystone," Steven Rounds posted in the Facebook group. "Complete incompetence regarding this storm. No doubt people were hurt due to the rampant negligence today — and not just in the city. In my four hours, I didn't see one plow in Westchester, Yonkers or the Bronx. Insane."

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the city's first snowstorm of the season "a perfect storm," exacerbated by the closure of the George Washington Bridge.

"A bunch of things came together very suddenly, not just the weather," de Blasio told Spectrum NY1 in transcripts prepared by the mayor's office. "Obviously, the closure of the George Washington Bridge — I certainly can't remember that happening previously, you know, in the middle of what seemed to be a pretty normal day. That really threw everything off. That had a horrible chain reaction on the entire city, so this was a bad, bad situation."

de Blasio also said that while the city's sanitation department was preparing for snow, reports from the weather service changed radically late in the morning on Thursday.

"I'm not happy with the end result, obviously. It's unacceptable," de Blasio said. "That said, I don't think it's as simple as one factor or another.

"But Wednesday night, the word was a couple of inches of snow. Nothing exceptional, nothing that people would feel a lot — changed late enough (on) Thursday that we were not in a position to do what we really needed to do, which was tell people not to drive.  In the past, one of the reasons we've had success with much bigger storms ... we told people well in advance to stay off the roads, don't go to work. Don't use your car. Leave room for the plows."

The GWB wasn't the only thing that shut down in the middle of the storm. The Major Deegan Expressway also shut down, primarily because of the number of disabled cars that littered the highway. 

The city's sanitation department issued a "snow alert" Thursday at noon, but that was just hours before the snow struck, and provided no other information to travelers, including any call for drivers to stay off roads.

"Left Pelham Parkway at 4:40 in Uber," Jennifer Dillon posted on the Riverdale Facebook page. "Had to be rescued by my husband at 6:30, and got to Riverdale at 9."

While there was a lot of frustration for anyone trying to get anywhere in the city Thursday night, some did at least try to find something to lighten the mood a little. Like Karolina Elzbieta.

"Hour 6, the bus is my home now," she wrote. "I should probably leave the Riverdale group and look for a BxM2 neighborhood Facebook page."

Elzbieta later wrote that she made it to West 231st Street by the seventh hour, and home within eight.

After a snow storm like that, there is some good news — there is no more snow in the forecast, at least in the immediate future.

"Information is the key," de Blasio told the news outlet. "I'm going to be even more conservative about calling out the problem early, and I am going to assume that people need to hear early that there might be a problem. And some days, people will say I cried wolf. But I would rather be on that side of the problem than experiencing what we did here. 

"But in the end, there's also going to be times when Mother Nature is just stronger than us, and sometimes we are going to be playing catch-up. And this was certainly one of those times."

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