Recovering from the storm that dumped more than two feet of snow on parts of New Jersey is shaping up to be no easy task. Today, a full day after the snow stopped falling, conditions were still so bad – especially near the shore – that some post offices weren’t delivering mail, one major road was closed, others were reduced to one or two lanes, and officials were still making sure that people weren’t still stuck in the hundreds of cars stranded along roadways.
Acting Gov. Steve Sweeney, who’s in charge while Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are out of town, asked the Christie administration to apply for federal aid to help with cleanup costs.
State Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Jones said at least 60 vehicles were stranded along State Route 18 in Monmouth County.
Today, State Police helicopters flew over the road to see if there were people trapped in vehicles. Jones said there were no signs of people still in their cars by midmorning.
Officials were still rescuing trapped motorists at about 2 a.m. today, he said.
The road won’t be able to open until the cars stuck on the road can be towed away to make way for plows. It wasn’t clear when that would happen.
The stranded motorists and their passengers were taken in National Guard Humvees and other vehicles to shelters set up at the Tinton Falls Police Department, the South Wall Township Fire Department, the Monmouth Mall and the Ocean Township Community Center.
One tractor-trailer got stuck on a set of train tracks in Asbury Park. A New Jersey Transit train, which was not carrying any passengers struck the unoccupied truck a little before 7 a.m. The train engineer was not hurt and NJ Transit officials said the damage to the train was minimal.
Some of the roads that were open were still hard to travel.
Ramps were closed on Interstate 80 in Passaic County, Interstate 78 in Union County and Interstate 195 in Howell Township.
And lanes were closed on many other highways.
It was so bad that the U.S. Post Office wasn’t delivering in some areas.
“We’re just shoveling out trucks,” said Buddy Sponenberg, a postal worker in Asbury Park. “And we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” he said.
Asbury Park got so much snow, followed by winds, that an eight-foot drift buried Dave Duncan’s Ford Focus.
“This was an act of God. I can’t even blame the snow plows,” said Duncan, who watched Sunday from his apartment above as his car disappeared into the white.
Mass transit was also still suffering.
New Jersey Transit resumed bus service early today, but said there were many delays.
Most train lines in the state were running on lighter schedules than normal.
And the PATH trains that carry passengers between New Jersey and New York City were not running in Newark until about noon.
At Newark Liberty International Airport, about half the flights listed on departure boards by mid-morning were scheduled to depart on time or with varying delays. But they weren’t taking off fast enough for thousands of travelers who stood or sat in long lines that snaked through the airport.
Geri Smith’s experience was echoed by several travelers who said once flights were cancelled, they were unable to change reservations online or via phone, forcing them to try their luck at the airport. Once there, it was a challenge to determine which line originated at which counter, so tangled was the mass of humanity.
“You figure if you slide into a line and nobody yells at you, you’re probably at the end,” said Smith, who found out late Monday night that her Tuesday morning flight to California had been cancelled.
People improvised to create sleeping spaces, with large plastic luggage tubs doing multiple duty. Small children curled up in them with blankets and pillows, and one man took several and turned them over to form a makeshift box spring.
“I slept about four or five hours,” said Ganesh Thapa, a Ph.d. student at the University of Rhode Island on his way to visit family in India. “It was better than the floor.”
Thapa’s odyssey began in Providence Monday when his flight to Newark was cancelled. He hitched a ride with a friend to Newark after finding out this evening flight was still on schedule, then arrived to discover that flight, too, had been cancelled. He was hopeful of getting on a flight tonight.
New Jersey’s other commercial passenger airport, Atlantic City International, reopened Monday evening.