By midday Wednesday, aggressive snow removal operations were in full effect in Jersey City — loading the trucks and piling the sand. Plows lined up single file, ready to deploy.
“We have about 5,000 tons of salt on hand. We go through about 800 tons per average storm, and we have about 70 pieces of equipment, plows that are able to be used,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.
This isn’t the first rodeo for Fulop. During his five years in office, the city revamped its winter storm approach: brining streets at night, early, to prevent freezing, and bringing in crews on staggered shifts 24 hours a day so they’re not caught off guard.
“I think just the logistics of navigating a big city with a lot of different people here is always complicated, but we have it down pretty good at this point. This team has been in place now for five years, at least, working on this together, so there isn’t a type of storm that we haven’t seen. Every year, we fine tune it a little bit, so I don’t expect it to be different today,” said Fulop.
“It’s an all agency operation, whereas we bring in police, fire, EMS, plus our Public Works, and any city agency that’s necessary to make the city safe. So, it’s a combination of anybody and everybody; it’s an all hands on deck operation,” said Greg Kierce, director of the Jersey City Office of Emergency Management.
But this storm was tricky by getting off to a slow start, misleading some to think those rain drops wouldn’t turn to flakes. Kierce monitors the situation from a command center, with eyes on all parts of the city, which is bracing for a foot of snow.
“We’re a huge commuting city. Our population pretty much hits close to 500,000 on a normal day, so we have to be really cognizant of the amount of people using mass transit throughout the city and keep our bus routes open,” said Kierce.
One of the hardest parts for the crews to stay on top of during the storm is not just how quickly the snow is coming down, but also shifting winds that are making the accumulations different. Jersey City escaped this winter relatively unscathed, but if the city gets the accumulations as predicted, crews expects to go through most, if not all, of the 5,000 tons of salt.
The city will need it as the heavy wet snow brings down lines, likely to cause outages and other road blocks.
“You have to use all due caution and get out in front of it long ahead, of which our public works people do a phenomenal job,” said Kierce.
It’ll be a long night, and an even longer dig out.