NYC Faced With Tough Questions About Blizzard Response

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snowA winter storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on New York City is also whipping up criticism about how the city handled the response. City officials said last night it could require another 24 hours to clear the snowy and icy side streets.

The heavy snow sent city emergency services into a nose dive, with ambulances and fire trucks trapped in snow and facing long delays. There was also bickering between the city and some unions over whether a snow emergency should have been called, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

Just how much did the city struggle in its response to medical and fire emergencies on Monday? So bad that CBS 2 has learned EMS crews from three counties in New Jersey had to rush to New York City’s aid Monday night.

As residents were being asked not to call 911 unless there was an emergency, sources said the city was having difficulty responding to many high-priority calls.

Crews from Burlington, Somerset and Mercer counties in New Jersey arrived in New York City to help with the back load of calls – 20 crews were assigned to Queens and 20 ambulances went to Brooklyn.

Al Hagen, President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, said he is “demanding a hearing.”

“It’s not right. The essential services of this city have clearly taken a back seat,” Hagen said.

There were also questions about whether a potentially dangerous situation could have been headed off.

Monday afternoon, there was a three-hour wait to get an ambulance to critical calls, like cardiac arrests and traumas, sources told CBS 2. In addition, lower priority EMS calls were said to have been held up for nearly 12 hours before an ambulance could get to the scene.

At one point there were 120 ambulances stuck in the snow, Kramer reported.

The combination of snow problems and the need to respond to health emergencies gave the FDNY about a 60 percent availability to respond to fires, sourced said.

A dramatic example of the chaos was what happened to a Queens’ woman suffering an asthmatic attack. Engine 289 got to her house and spent 10 hours with her waiting for an EMS ambulance to show up. They kept running out of oxygen, eventually using up 26 bottles. The woman was finally taken to Elmhurst Hospital when the 46 Battalion Chief arrived.

EMS and fire sources questioned why the city didn’t call a snow emergency to keep cars off streets, which would have made it easier for emergency vehicles and snow plows to get around.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg blamed the fast pace of snowfall. He said it fell at 2 to 3 inches per hour during some periods overnight, and many main roadways had to be plowed repeatedly.

Bloomberg quipped back when asked about the long delays by Kramer.

“We are always concerned about any backlog. You can rest assured that is our number one priority,” Bloomberg said.

Patrick Bahnken, Head of the EMS union said he has not seen a more difficult emergency situation “since 9-11.” Senator Karl Kruger, of Brooklyn, is demanding hearings into the “highly disturbing” news that EMS was on a 3 hour delay for critical cases.



  1. Besides ambulances that couldn’t get thru, police were on foot in the frigid weather, as their patrol cars couldn’t get thru either!Apparently,sanitation workers who were laid off due to budget cuts were out to fix the city. Bloomberg’s priority is Times Square and the theater district.

    In Brooklyn, most of the avenues weren’t properly cleaned and side streets weren’t even touched!

  2. Here in Far Rockaway there is a city ambulance not just stuck, but ABANDONED on Plainview Avenue at Beach 9th Street. It’s completely blocking the road so that no vehicles can pass through in either direction. We haven’t seen a snow plow in this neighborhood at all…everyone is pretty much locked in.

  3. It’s good to question and reevaluate, but let’s not complain. Reality: 1- this was a HUGE storm. 2 – the difficulty mobilizing manpower right after the holiday should be understood. Assess, change, but don’t kvetch…

  4. The question is not how they responded to the storm, the question is why they didn’t respond at all? who are they foolong? we live in this city. We are not blind, they are stil bearly doing anything. WHY WHY WHY. whats going on here?
    This is not funy. People are dying what can we do? our elected offiacials are angry 🙂 good for them. You see what they could do for us.
    I honestly think The mayor should be sued or impeached.


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