• 2021 February 7 13:19

    Frosty February blasts Port Authority of NY and NJ but snow teams were prepared

    Even before the first flakes of Winter Storm Orlena began to fall, the Port Authority’s snowstorm response effort was well under way. By last Sunday morning, operations and maintenance teams were mobilizing for a storm that would eventually blast the region with 12 to over 18 inches of snow during a three-day siege that ground most transportation activity to a halt. Emergency operation centers (EOCs) were activated at Newark Liberty, John F. Kennedy, and LaGuardia airports to coordinate clean-up around the clock, as were storm-response strategies set for the agency’s tunnels, bridges, ports, PATH, and the World Trade Center. Across the agency’s seven maintenance garages, auto mechanics in the Central Automotive Division (CAD) tallied their inventory of equipment parts and performed critical vehicle inspections.

    Orlena likely won’t be the last significant snowstorm the Port Authority faces this winter, and the agency will prepare as it always does in advance of a severe storm threat – get the snow-removal equipment, teams, and supplies primed, adjust staffing assignments to account for Covid-19 distancing, and keep the public well-informed as the agency meets its mandate to keep the region moving.

    "Every time we have a major storm like this, it's our job to make sure we have a cooperative and coordinated Port Authority response, one that can adapt to and handle any severe weather conditions at any of our facilities," said Gerard McCarty, Director of the Office of Emergency Management.

    “Every time we have a major storm like this, it’s our job to make sure we have a cooperative and coordinated Port Authority response, one that can adapt to and handle any severe weather conditions at any of our facilities,” - Gerard McCarty, PA OEM Director

    And a massive agency-wide response it was: hundreds of employees worked to clear runways, roadways, tracks and sidewalks, with more than 7,000 tons of salt, more than 1,600 tons of chemical de-icer, and over 500 pieces of snow removal equipment including plows, salt spreaders, sweepers, and snow blowers.

    Crews at Newark Liberty, JFK, LaGuardia, and New York Stewart airports used a variety of specialized equipment to enable airport operations to function, with a comprehensive game plan for clean-up and recovery finalized days in advance. By the time Orlena departed, airport operators had deployed more than 390 pieces of snow removal equipment, 4,500 tons of salt and 800 tons of sand, and 1,600+ tons of chemical de-icer. Below, view videos of LGA and EWR snow equipment in action.

    The Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals Department (TB&T) was ready to go the Friday before the storm. Maintenance staff inspected and prepared all vehicles that would be needed once the inclement weather hit. Some vehicles used for utility or maintenance work were outfitted with plows and spreaders were loaded with salt.

    The TB&T effort would eventually involve about 124 pieces of equipment, consisting primarily of plows and salt spreaders; 2,545 tons of salt; 330 gallons of chemical deicer, more than 50 tons of calcium chloride, and 420 tons of Blizzard Wizard ice and snow melt.

    The response at PATH was equally robust. The sheer volume of snow – 18 inches in all – and blustery winds hindered efforts to clear exposed track at key points throughout the system, leading to a service suspension during part of the storm. More than 100 crew members worked steadily through the storm to help get all four PATH rail lines back up and running.

    World Trade Center supervisors and staff faced their own challenges to keep traffic flowing, applying 22 pieces of equipment and 50 tons of Blizzard Wizard. By the time the last flakes were falling, crews had removed over 1,620 tons of snow off the campus.

    At the Port Authority seaport, dozens of staff were called in for preparation beginning Sunday night and remained on 12-hour shifts through Wednesday night to clear snow from all public roadways, sidewalks and berths within the port area that are not maintained by a tenant.

    All in all, it was a team effort to keep the roads, rails, and runways clear, and Port Authority crews are ready to do it again.

    “The Central Automotive team was at the ready for Winter Storm Orlena, making sure every facility had the equipment they needed ahead of time. When the snowstorm hit, the team responded quickly and efficiently to any issue that came up, whether it was changing a tire or replacing an engine," said CAD Manager David Bobbitt. “I’m proud of their dedication and skill, and I have no doubt they’ll come prepared for the next one.”


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