January Snowstorm: Expectations Failed

The blizzard of January 2015, anticipated to leave at least 2-3 feet of snow on New York City, has failed to meet the city’s expectations. The amount of caution taken prior to this snowstorm has been proven to be utterly futile. For the first time in its 110-year history, the subway system was shut down because of snow. Starting at 11 o’clock p.m., Jan. 26, all non-emergency vehicles were banned from New York City streets. Persons violating this state order would be committing a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $300. On Sunday, Jan. 25, Mayor Bill de Blasio described the upcoming blizzard as potentially “the biggest snowstorm in the history of New York City.” Due to the heavily emphasized hazards of the blizzard, spread by weather forecasts and authorities, all schools in the city were closed on Tuesday, Jan. 27, the day the blizzard was expected to take place. Yet, despite all the efforts made by authorities and departments to keep New York City residents safe and protected from the snowstorm, this “historic” blizzard turned out to be only a common storm that brought less than a foot of snow to the city.

Why did what was expected to be a blizzard turn out to be just another typical snowfall? City-wide weather forecasts have been severely criticized for their erroneous predictions which caused a lot of trouble for New Yorkers prior to the snowstorm. Yet, forecasters defended themselves by claiming that their predictions in reality were not so wrong: the storm largely spared the city, instead battering eastern Long Island and much of New England, where Nantucket lost power and Scituate, Mass., flooded. These areas were covered with over 3 feet of snow. “In the big picture, this was not a bad forecast,” said Adam Sobel, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University, who came to the forecasts’ defense. “But if you sit in New York City, this was a bust.”

According to Reddit.com, it takes at least 12 inches of snow for New York City schools to close for a snow day. Understandably, schools were closed on Tuesday, since a heavy blizzard was predicted to happen that could bring 2-3 feet of snow to the ground. The majority of students were overjoyed when they heard the news announced at school the day before. “I was so excited I almost cried! I ran out of the room hearing joy and laughter throughout the halls. I was so happy to know that there would be a day off and that I’d be able to go outside with my friends and sled,” recalls Rummana Amrin, ’17. The day off proved to be even more enjoyable when the city found out on Tuesday that the predicted blizzard was nothing more than a regular snowstorm. This year, students got lucky with a free day off.

But will we receive the same precautionary treatment the next time a “blizzard” is predicted? “When I found out there was no school on Tuesday, I was in part relieved due to the fact that last year when it snowed heavily we did have school, so I felt like it was a good idea to take this precaution and cancel school,” said Alexandra Ramos, ‘17. Last year in 2014, shortly after taking office, Mayor de Blasio and school chancellor Carmen Farina faced heavy criticism from NYC residents for leaving schools open during a heavy storm. “Why the public school system is open today in these conditions is astounding. Putting the lives of teachers, administrators, and most importantly, children, in danger by telling them to travel in this weather (many roads are still unplowed) is incomprehensible. Chancellor Farina and the DOE staff: you have some serious explaining to do,” said James Hong on the Department of Education’s Facebook page, which had hundreds of negative comments, in February 2014.

Whether or not we will be experiencing more storms in the future, the current situation serves as a future warning for New Yorkers: we shouldn’t always overestimate or underestimate the level of impact that an upcoming storm could bring to us. Although this “blizzard” was a failure compared to our expectations and predictions in New York City, we shouldn’t assume that the next snowstorm will turn out the same way.

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