Video: Tough going for ambulances

  1. Closed captioning of: Tough going for ambulances

    >> a staggering number of streets here in new york city are either not yet partly cloudy or just partial plowed. and it's a real public safety responders. police, fire, ems. they get the call they have to get through and they'll find a way though some have gotten stuck in the process. our own robert bazell discovered on the streets, when the going gets tough, the tough get creative.

    >> reporter: snowstorm paralyzed much of new york city , especially beyond manhattan.

    >> the big problem is the outer burroughs. while many of the main streets , this is the hamilton parkway in brooklyn. they are opened. but the side streets , most of those are completely clogged.

    >> reporter: this medical center emergency route was at its usual controlled chaotic pace. on the ward, some stories of frightening close calls. tammy went into labor and called an ambulance at 9:00 p.m . on sunday. she gave birth at home at 1:00 a.m . yesterday with the help of friends and relatives. the balance arrived four hours later.

    >> it was terrifying. horrible, actually. but thank god she's okay.

    >> reporter: at first, when maya went into labor with her still unnamed twin boys she didn't even try to call an balance. she and her husband trudged to the subway stop only to learn the trains were not running and then called an ambulance.

    >> while we were waiting for them outside i saw a plow truck get stuck and i thought, i'm giving birth in the snow.

    >> reporter: the ambulance arrived in time for her to get a needed c-section. the ambulance are bringing in patients but often, the drivers have stories about having to carry them through several clogged blocks until they can get them to a main thoroughfare where the balance has to park.

    >> i remember 12340e a long time and it's never been this bad.

    >> reporter: the hospital says it's managing fine.

    >> i'm amazed that everyone has pulled together. it could be the sanitation workers giving people a ride here knowing they needed to get here, to our nurses staying over, extra shifts to the ambulance drivers picking up in their own car.

    >> reporter: new yorkers pulling together as their city continues to struggle. robert bazell , nbc news, brooklyn.

NBC, and news services
updated 12/29/2010 7:08:17 PM ET 2010-12-30T00:08:17

The Blizzard of 2010 continued to impact millions on Tuesday — from travelers stuck at airports across the country trying to get to the Northeast, to New Yorkers mad that their streets still hadn't been plowed.

In New Jersey on Tuesday, a full day after the snow stopped falling, conditions were still so bad that some post offices didn't deliver mail, one major road was closed, others were reduced to one or two lanes, and officials made sure that people weren't still stuck in the hundreds of cars stranded along roadways.

In Boston, tens of thousands of customers were left without power after 18.2 inches of snow fell, 10th most since the National Weather Service started keeping records in 1892. The city lifted its snow emergency Monday evening and public transit operated with only minor hitches Tuesday.

But the worst of the snow, and the loudest complaints, were in New York, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday called the blizzard "not like any other" storm to hit the city.

"We still have a long way to go," he told a press conference, but some 1,000 vehicles were removed from key highways on Monday and the city is hiring private plows to help.

It's "the biggest effort to clear snow that our city has ever seen," he said.

Bloomberg defended his fire, police and transportation departments, saying the enormity of the blizzard overwhelmed the city and hundreds of abandoned vehicles made it that much harder to plow streets.

But, in response to a reporter's question about frustrated residents, he added that "I'm angry too" about the cleanup pace.

Video: Watch towed snow plow hit car (on this page)

Hundreds of city buses and dozens of ambulances remained stuck in the snow throughout the city, and officials predicted streets would not be clear for another 24 hours, a day later than they first promised.

"And even then I'm not so sure," Bloomberg said.

"The bottom line is, we're doing everything we possibly can and pulling every resource from every possible place to meet the unique challenges that this storm is posing," he added.

Bloomberg said emergency vehicles erred in trying to navigate unplowed streets during the storm, and New Yorkers also should not have ignored warnings and driven during that time.

The fire department said it received more than 4,000 calls during the storm — its busiest day in recent memory, apart from the Sept. 11 attack.

Brooklyn resident Annie O'Daly waited more than 30 hours for help after falling and breaking her ankle Sunday night at around 8 p.m., said Jim Leonhardt, her husband. An ambulance didn't arrive until 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. Leonhardt had to help paramedics carry her out onto the unplowed street and over a snowbank.

Story: Stuck on the tarmac: Headaches begin at landing

Commuters on Tuesday saw major delays and route changes on buses and trains, while air travelers turned terminals into open-air hotels and hundreds waited eight to 10 hours aboard several planes stuck on tarmacs.

The problems were still widespread on Tuesday:

  • 423 flights were canceled at Newark Airport on Tuesday, 281 at JFK and 100 at LaGuardia. All airlines were trying to rebook thousands of travelers stranded since at least Sunday.
  • Subway and bus service during the morning commute saw delays or route changes on many lines. Northern New Jersey bus commuters also saw delays.
  • Amtrak had limited service to Boston and Washington, D.C. The Long Island Rail Road saw multiple route suspensions.

Residents outside Manhattan complained of a sluggish response by snow plow crews who still hadn't finished clearing the streets.

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"Send in the Plows!" was the headline on on Tuesday morning.

"I don't think they were prepared," April Cuthbert, a materials manager at Brooklyn Hospital, said from the Fort Greene neighborhood, where stretches of sidewalk remained unshoveled, forcing people to walk in the street. "Manhattan, that's a money place. They make money in Manhattan," she added, explaining why her neighborhood was still snowed under.

State Sen. Carl Kruger, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn, called the city's response a "colossal failure."

Fire officials said the unplowed streets and abandoned cars made it harder to respond to emergencies, including a five-alarm, wind-whipped blaze at a Queens apartment building Monday night.

"I'm furious at Mayor Bloomberg, he's a rich man, so he doesn't care about the little people,"  livery driver Julio Carpio, speaking in Spanish, said Monday. "I have to work, why aren't people out there plowing? Why does the mayor always go on TV the night before to say, 'We're all set with a fleet of salt trucks,' and then you never see a single truck? They always abandon Queens."

Video: Time-lapse video captures blizzard’s wrath (on this page)

Signs of 'On time' at airports
Air travel in the nation's busiest, most crowded airspace nearly shut down completely after the storm socked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow on a holiday weekend when Americans all seemed to be traveling or just unprepared.

Flights slowly resumed at the airports, although experts said it would likely take several more days to rebook all the displaced passengers.

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Two of New York's major airports — LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International — began to receive inbound flights on Monday night, while Newark began receiving inbound flights Tuesday morning. Nearly 1,500 total flights were canceled at all three airports.

The words "On time" lit up at least half the departure boards early Tuesday at LaGuardia, where passengers stretched out sleeping under blankets along the windowsill of a food court.

The storm was New York City's sixth-worst since record-keeping began in 1869, said Adrienne Leptich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. A Feb. 11-12, 2006, storm dropped 26.9 inches of snow on Central Park, breaking the previous record, set in 1947, by half an inch. The storm that hit the city Sunday left 20 inches of snow in Central Park.

Story: Your images of East Coast blizzard

Another rare characteristic of the storm was thundersnow in New York City — a weather occurrence that combines lightening, thunder and snow, according to The city hadn't experienced the phenomenon in decades, the report said.

The storm was sprawling and fickle, dropping 29 inches on Staten Island; 32 inches on Rahway, N.J.; about 12 inches on Philadelphia; and 19 inches in South Boston, according to the Weather Service.

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The storm wreaked havoc on almost every form of conveyance: from the buses at the nation's busiest terminal near Times Square to the region's usually punctual commuter trains.

A tractor-trailer skidded off a road and smashed into a house in Maine. A woman went into labor on a New Jersey highway, causing a traffic jam that stranded 30 vehicles. Rails on the normally reliable New York subway shorted out. Winds topping 65 mph ripped power lines, leaving tens of thousands of people in the dark across New England.

Little problems quickly snowballed: On New Jersey's Garden State Parkway, a motorist struggled to find the shoulder of the road after his wife went into labor, causing a traffic jam that eventually stranded 30 vehicles, state trooper Chris Menello said.

Christopher Mullen returned from sunny Cancun, Mexico, to find his car buried in the snow in long-term parking at JFK Airport. After trying to dig it out and getting soaked in the process, he finally gave up and took the subway — which promptly broke down.

Mullen and his girlfriend spent eight hours in a freezing subway car, shivering under a thin blanket.

Video: Southern states shudder in bitter cold (on this page)

The storm spared no one, not even men who travel on ice for a living. A bus carrying the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team got stuck in the blizzard for four hours while trying to return to their hotel after a game against the New Jersey Devils. And, members of the U.S. luge team lost two days of training after they were stranded on their way to Koenigssee, Germany.

In Philadelphia, pedestrians dodged chunks of ice blown off skyscrapers.

Across the region, the storm's aftermath was punctuated by surreal moments, like the sight of Adrian Traylor, 29, roaming the Newark airport terminal in a Scottish kilt and bare legs as subfreezing winds howled outside.

Traylor, who lives in Scotland, was on his way to visit relatives in Las Vegas and said he wore the kilt to impress his family.

"I didn't think I'd be wearing it this long," he said.

The Associated Press, NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.

Interactive: Powerful winter storm bears down on North East coast

Photos: The East Coast digs out

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  1. Snow covers the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport's Terminal 4 on Tuesday, Dec. 28, in New York City. Flights have slowly started to resume in New York but lines to rebook have been long. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. People sleep and eat on the floor while waiting for a flight at Terminal 4 of John F. Kennedy International Airport Tuesday. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A New Jersey Transit train arrives at the Princeton Junction station Tuesday in West Windsor, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A front-end loader removes snow in New York's Times Square on Tuesday ahead of New Year festivities. (Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A doorman shovels a path on the east side of Manhattan on Tuesday after the blizzard dropped 20 inches of snow in the area. (Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Dave Duncan sits in his Honda Civic, buried on the street, in Asbury Park, N.J., on Tuesday. (Beth Defalco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Travelers wait in ticketing lines at New York's LaGuardia airport on Tuesday. (Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Icicles melt in the afternoon sun as temperatures rise into the high 30s Tuesday in Hamilton, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. This traveler at Miami International Airport was among the many waiting Tuesday for flights after the Northeast blizzard caused backups across the country. (Jeffrey Boan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A young person sleds down a snow covered hill at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia on Monday. A blizzard pummeled the Northeast on Monday, dumping up to 29 inches of snow, disrupting air and rail travel and challenging motorists with blowing snow and icy roads at the end of the busy Christmas weekend. New York City, eastern New Jersey and western Long Island were the hardest hit by the storm. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Travelers carry their luggage through a snow bank on 7th Ave. in front of Penn Station after a snow storm in New York, Dec. 27. A blizzard pummeled the Northeast on Monday, dumping up to 29 inches of snow, disrupting air and rail travel and challenging motorists with blowing snow and icy roads at the end of the busy Christmas weekend. New York City, eastern New Jersey and western Long Island were the hardest hit by the storm. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A windswept beach looks desolate following a snow storm on Monday in Westport, Conn. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Children play on a mound of snow on The Boardwalk, Dec. 27, in Atlantic City, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Gregg Smith shovels out after a heavy snowfall in the Boston suburb of Marlborough, Mass., Dec. 27. A powerful East Coast blizzard menaced would-be travelers by air, rail and highway Monday, leaving thousands without a way to get home after the holidays. (Bill Sikes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Alexa Canning and Talia Quinn fly through the air after hitting a jump on their sleds in Norfolk, Massachusetts. (Matt Campbell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A man shovels snow on a street along the Brooklyn waterfront, Dec. 27, in New York City. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Commuters, who were trapped over night, sit on parked trains at Penn Station in New York City on Monday. (Andrew Gombert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A woman exercises in a snow covered pasture in Durham, N.C., Monday, after a powerful East Coast blizzard that moved through Christmas day. (Jim R. Bounds / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A strong gust of wind blows snow in front of a man in Philadelphia, Monday. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A woman walks her dog between snowed-in taxicabs following a major blizzard in Manhattan's Greenwich Village on Monday in New York City. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Elena Amaral shovels steps at Trinity College during the storm in Hartford, Conn., Monday. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A homeowner clears snow from the end of his driveway, Dec. 27, in Norfolk, Mass., following the blizzard which brought more than a foot of snow in the Boston area. The storm dumped snow from Atlanta, Ga. to Maine. (Matt Campbell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Michael Howard of Albany, N.Y., shovels out his vehicle on Monday. (Mike Groll / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A woman walks through the snow in Manhattan's East Village in the early hours of Monday. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A New Jersey state trooper arrives to help after cars crash during heavy snowfall on Sunday near Columbus, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A worker clears snow from the seats at the Philadelphia Eagles stadium. (Tim Shaffer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The storm moved up from the south, where areas like Raleigh, N.C., saw snow over the weekend as well. (Jim R. Bounds / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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