Grayson had power, but not enough of it


As snowstorm Grayson’s fierce winds and heavy snowfall bore down on the Bronx last week, Raymundo Pegollo and his team were hard at work.

Raymundo — or Ray as his friends call him — is the chief administrative superintendent of buildings and grounds at Lehman College. And on this frigid day, he was joined by “right-hand man” Jorge Mateus and some 60 other people using shovels and plows to clear snow from the walkways and steps at Lehman’s 37-acre Bedford Park Boulevard West campus.

“We don’t go home until we are done,” Pegollo said. “It doesn’t matter how long we are going to be. The key is to make sure (Lehman) is open for the next day,” and “safe for everyone.”

Working in teams of up to four people on three shifts throughout the day and night, Pegollo’s team has 44,000 pounds of rock salt and calcium chloride on-hand to sprinkle over exposed pavement as they clear the snow.

“You have to come early enough … to put the salt down,” Pegollo said. Otherwise, Lehman would end up looking more like an ice skating rink.

Grayson — which hit a good portion of the tri-state area last week — introduced “bomb cyclone” into many people’s vocabulary. And it’s as bad as it sounds. 

It’s more commonly known in the meteorological community as an “explosive cyclogenesis,” or probably the more fun-to-pronounce “bombogenesis.” According to AccuWeather’s Kristen Rodman in a blog post, a storm like this is a result of warm and cold air masses clashing in a short period of time — typically over water — while air pressure rapidly drops. It can bring with it high winds, plenty of precipitation, and even “thundersnow.” 

No matter what the storm brings, it’s not going to stop David Esses from going to work. And it can’t. 

That’s because Esses is the emergency department medical director at Montefiore Medical Center, and snow has never stopped him from making it to the hospital over the last 20 years he’s been there.

“We chose to be in health care,” Esses said. “And we know that we have certain responsibilities. We have to be here one way or another. The patients depend on us, they depend on us coming to work. The hospital depends on us.”

Last week, two Montefiore staffers stayed at the hospital overnight, while others simply braved the storm. With everyone in attendance, they were equipped to take in 50 percent more patients than they regularly do. Luckily, they didn’t need that kind of preparation.

Getting to school and finding medical help are important in storms. But what about that one thing none of us can do without — food?

Fitore Gashi drove the icy roads from Yonkers during last week’s storm to work the register at Skyview Café & Delicatessen on Riverdale Avenue. Jay Patel, however, had her beat, commuting from Hoboken, arriving bright and early at 6 a.m.

Patel is from India’s Kashmir Valley, where winters are harsh and weather is unpredictable. Last week’s snow? Didn’t even faze him.

“We’re rough and tough guys,” he said. “We’ve seen worse than this. This is eight inches. (In Kashmir), we get snow in feet.”

Patel and Gashi made it to Skyview last week, but customers weren’t ready to make the trek. Instead, they looked for delivery — not just from the deli, but maybe a hot pie as well.

The staff at Addeo’s Riverdale Pizza made deliveries as late into the day as they could on Thursday, finally calling it quits in the early afternoon because of safety reasons. In all, Addeo’s turned out 150 pies during the storm.

“We were quite busy until about 9 o’clock,” said Joey DePasquale, who works at the pizzeria.

While the storm was bad, it was nowhere near the worst weather shop owner Laurence Addeo has worked in. That would be Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“I was stupid,” he said. “I stayed open until 7 or 8 o’clock that night.”

By then, Addeo didn’t feel comfortable simply sending his staff home, so he drove all of them back personally.

“I remember going down Gun Hill Road,” he said. “A cop was saying on the loudspeaker, ‘Get off the road!’”

And staying safe is important whenever a major storm like this hits, Montefiore’s Esses said — especially for anyone who can’t simply stay home and wait it out because of work.

“One of my jobs is to try to make it as easy as possible for them to be able to come to work, and for them to be safe,” Esses said. “That’s really the key thing you want — you want your staff to be safe.”

— Lisa Herndon, Michael Hinman, Zak Kostro, Julius Constantine Motal & Tiffany Moustakas