BY SHAMS TAREK AND ANGELA MONTEFINISE
It was supposed to be a day off from work, and one of the busiest shopping days of the post-Christmas winter season.
Instead, this year’s President’s Day saw stores shuttered and backs aching across the borough, which spent Feb. 17 — and the next few days as well — digging out of between 16.5 and 28 inches of the cold white stuff.
The so-called “Blizzard of ‘03” brought the most snowfall in a single storm in New York City since the “Blizzard of ‘96,” according to local weather reports. National Weather Service (NWS) statistics show that Queens got almost as much snow during Monday’s storm as it did during all of January 1996, when the last big blizzard hit.
John F. Kennedy Airport got 25.6 inches of snowfall on Feb. 17, according to the NWS, while LaGuardia Airport got 16.5. Those two locations got 23 inches and 27.6 inches, respectively, during all of January 1996.
The highest snowfall in the borough was recorded in the Howard Beach area, which got 28 inches, according to the NWS. Central Park got 19.8 inches.
But despite the sophistication of the government’s ground and satellite-based recording equipment, the NWS numbers tell only half the story, in half the inches.
High winds and busy snow plows left piles three to five feet high on many residential streets, with even higher piles in some places. Fire hydrants, garbage cans and even entire cars were completely buried in snow.
The fact that the snow fell on a federal holiday, when most City agencies were closed, didn’t help much. All the community boards and local elected official offices were officially closed, leaving residents without an advocate and conduit through which to report snow cleanup problems.
Digging In & Digging Out
An avalanche of calls did come on Feb. 18, though, when residents realized that their streets should be clean and their representatives should be responding.
Some took the proactive approach. The St. Albans district office of Councilman Leroy Comrie, which was closed Feb. 17, called about 30 constituents on Feb. 18 to make sure that the district was plowed properly, Comrie said while driving back a day late from a weekend in Albany. Only two residents — one in Hollis and one in Jamaica, he said – reported that their streets hadn’t been plowed.
Local hospitals reported only a few minor injuries on Feb. 18, including “six or seven slip and fall accidents” at Jamaica Hospital, according to spokesman Ole Padersen. No one in Queens was reported to die or have sustained major injuries because of the snow, but Padersen said they are “likely to increase now that people are out shoveling.”
Con Edison, which delivers electricity to the borough’s buildings, reported that 24 building owners were without power in the 24 hours between 2:10 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18.
The Fire Department also didn’t report any major problems despite the two feet of snow much of the borough got this week.
Spokesman Michael Loughran said that “We haven’t seen a drastic increase in response times,” and that no fires have been caused by the snow in the borough. He suggested that for their own safety, property owners clear the snow around their fire hydrants.
DEP spokesman Charles Sturken, who works for the agency that installs and maintains the hydrants, said that as sidewalk objects, no City agency, including the Department of Sanitation, clears snow off of fire hydrants. He added that residents could technically get fined if found dumping snow over hydrants, but safety is the bigger issue.
“It would be very reckless and irresponsible to dump snow on top of a fire hydrant,” Sturken said.
Getting There Any Which Way
With cars buried in snow, trains and buses running on delays and nearly two feet of snow making it difficult for people to walk, many Queens residents were stuck at home on Feb. 17, with no hope of visiting friends, buying groceries, or partaking in the winter wonderland that blanketed the borough.
But for some Eastern Queens residents, like Floral Park native Matthew McCormick, the snow wasn’t an obstacle, but rather an “exciting challenge that’s really fun to overcome.” He told the Tribune, “There is no way I’m getting stuck indoors when there’s all this beautiful snow out. If I don’t have to go to work, well then I’m going to go out and have a good time.”
The lawyer and avid skier was driving around the streets of Eastern Queens on a snowmobile that he said he “mostly uses in Vermont.” In a pair of goggles and a ski suit, McCormick said he traveled to the Waldbaum’s on Union Turnpike, Blockbuster Video on Hillside Avenue, his friend’s house on 248th Street and the 7-11 on Little Neck Turnpike on Feb. 17.
Other Queens residents also used innovative and creative means to get around the borough despite the snowfall. Bellerose resident Joshua Pannick pulled out his skis and glided down Union Turnpike in an attempt to fill a prescription at Genovese.
Four-year-old Glen Oaks resident Janie Rogers had the most interesting means of transportation. With her mother Michele and her father Dennis watching close by, little Janie sat on a plastic sled and got pulled down the street by Barney, the family’s Golden Retriever.
Mass Transit Mess
On the morning of Feb. 18, transit riders grappled with a slow, long commute to work.
At the Willets Point-Shea Stadium station during rush hour, the 7 train temporarily stopped and passengers were told to take a shuttle bus to Main Street. Hordes of commuters needing to get to Flushing rushed buses, with one elderly woman toppling over in the snow to get aboard the shuttle bus.
On The bus, Bayside resident Adam Striker told the Tribune that he was one “tired” commuter who had been trying to get home the previous day from Manhattan, where he was stranded the night before. On the day of the storm, he decided to go into work.
At 2 p.m. in afternoon, Striker found that the Long Island Railroad was suspended. Twenty hours and many phone calls later, he made it home.
“Why [LIRR workers] couldn’t tell me before about the delays, I don’t know…I would’ve taken a cab. I’ve been trying to get home for nearly 24 hours,” Striker said.
As the bus rolled down Roosevelt Avenue at a turtle’s pace due the heavy traffic up ahead, some commuters opted to walk the rest of the way to Main Street, instead of wait.
Sled Heads Of All Ages Hit Queens’ Greens
BY ANGELA MONTIFINISE
For 42-year-old Steven Parissi of Douglaston, a blizzard is the perfect opportunity to head to the golf course.
On Feb. 17, while more than two feet of snow was busy blanketing Queens, Parissi and his sons Michael, Philip, Ronnie and Jake joined dozens of other sledders at Douglaston Golf Course, where kids of all ages grabbed their sleds, snowboards, tubes, skis, rafts and garbage can lids, and slid down the landscape.
Self-proclaimed “sled head” Parissi said he has been coming to Douglaston Golf Course since “he was a small kid” to sled, and said, “Now that I’m a big kid, I use my boys as an excuse to come back.”
Francis Lewis High School students Alan Chu, Benny Lee and Daniel Hermann agree, and hit Kissena Golf Course with their sleds and snowboards on Feb. 17. Lee said, “Who needs Windham [Ski Resort]? We can hit the slopes right here.” He said he practices snowboarding tricks at Kissena Golf Course, and said, “It’s a lot cheaper than a ski place, and it’s a lot safer to try tricks. It’s not quite as steep.”
For The Latest From The City . . .
As the Tribune went to press, City officials were reporting that alternate side of the street parking would be suspended on Feb. 19, however there was no further information available about regulations for the rest of the week. Call the DOT at CALL-DOT for the latest update.