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Murphy transportation department preps for first 2019 wintery weather

The Murphy administration is hoping to batten down the hatches for the state’s first snowstorm of the winter, following the administration’s response critics said was woefully inadequate to a November freak blizzard.

The biggest message: stay off the roads. The weekend snow will likely roll over New Jersey Saturday night and continue through Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service Mount Holly Station.

The NWS put out a hazardous weather outlook on Thursday afternoon for most counties, excluding Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic and Union counties.

“In order for [the New Jersey Department of Transportation] to clear highways of snow and ice, we need roads free from traffic so our trucks can get through and do their job,” Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said in a Wednesday statement.

Wednesday’s advisory lists telecommuting as a viable option, get errands out of the way before the snowstorm starts, to “stay put” when the snow starts to come down and wait several hours after the snowfall has ended before hitting the road.

November’s blizzard dumped as much as 10 inches on parts of the state. With roads unplowed and unsalted, thousands of motorists were left stranded in their cars for hours. Snowplows and road-salting equipment became stuck in the same gridlock traffic, officials contend.

Many of them opted to spend the night at their place of work.

State police said they responded to nearly 1,000 crashes and helped nearly 1,900 drivers during the snowstorm.

On Nov. 16, the day after the blizzard, Gov. Phil Murphy said at a press conference at the State Traffic Management Center in Woodbridge, said much of the blame laid on the “lousy forecasts,” though he admitted his administration’s response was not enough.

“It wasn’t forecasted to be the storm it was. The forecasts were lousy,” Murphy said.

Murphy said weather conditions unexpectedly worsened at noon, by which time it was too late to declare a state of emergency.

But many Republicans, and even some Democrats, placed the blame on the administration.

Murphy’s Twitter message of him urging people to stay off the roads was seen as a last-minute and insufficient measure. Many commuters and residents vented their frustrations on social media.

Even some members of Murphy’s own party, such as Sen. Joseph Cryan, D-20th District, called the storm response “sub-par” and said that the governor’s office needs to review its emergency response procedures for inclement weather.

As the storm took place many local officials were converged at the New Jersey League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City, away from their townships, which also drew disapproval from frustrated commuters and residents.

Daniel J. Munoz
Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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