Feb. 10, 2013 at 3:01 PM ET
The steady drone of snow plows has been heard throughout the Northeast since Friday, and the region is recovering from what has been called one of the worst storms on record.
But as Monday morning draws near, is it safe for commuters to return to work?
Many of the region's transit systems and roads are getting back to business as usual. Boston's Logan International Airport and the three major airports that serve the New York City area have all resumed operations. However, fliers are advised to check with airlines directly for updates on service.
In the Boston area, a recent update by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority indicates service remains suspended on all modes, but are expected to resume by Monday, and In New York City, subways and buses are at or close to normal service levels.
Good day to telecommute
“Monday may just be a perfect day to work from home, if you can,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst for Hudson Crossing, who recommends travelers check local and regional transit agencies' websites for updates and local media for road conditions and restrictions. Social media, especially Twitter, will be helpful, he said.
“Air travel will likely be disrupted into Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said, assuming there are no further weather problems. “The challenge, of course, is finding seats. It’s going to be a scramble, and there will be many people whose travel plans will be severely disrupted. Be sure to subscribe to flight status updates from your airline, and if possible, have the updates sent to both an email address and a mobile phone.”
Mike Benjamin, CEO of FlightView.com, a website that provides real-time flight information, said since Friday, there have been more than 5,000 canceled flights in the region. “But it’s been handled pretty well,” he said. “Weather forecasts have gotten so much better in recent years,” allowing airlines and airports to be so much more proactive. “Planes are not stuck in a snow bank somewhere, airlines can be back on schedule quicker and this has a good affect on passengers.” He expects things to be mostly back to normal by Monday morning.
Driving in risky areas is a serious decision, says Bella Dinh-Zarr, North American director of Make Roads Safe and director of road safety for the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society. “In addition to putting yourself and others at risk,” crashes, even minor ones, “take away resources from emergency first responders.”
Dinh-Zarr recommends taking public transportation, but if driving, to research the route beforehand to make sure it is open and safe. In addition, she suggests driving with others, “for another set of eyes” and to decrease congestion.
“A significant challenge to commuters will be whether roads are not only plowed, but drivable,” Harteveldt agreed. “If roads are icy, roads may not be safe to drive, and they certainly won't be able to support normal traffic speeds. Plan to allow extra time.”
'Enormous amount of work remaining'
Greg Cohen, president and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance, said the preliminary assessment of the region’s roads and highways is good. "With rare exceptions (notably roads in Long Island), the mayors and governors throughout the northeast have done a good job of preparing motorists and their snow fighters for this weekend's blizzard.
“There appears to have been a great deal of improvement in New York City from the blizzard of 2010, and Mayor Bloomberg deserves credit for having snow fighters ready with plenty of salt, plows, and snow fighters in place.
"Obviously, it will be important for Governor Cuomo to review what went wrong in Long Island, with notably horrible problems on the Long Island Expressway and Route 25.”
News reports detailed cases of motorists left stranded in cars, even though people were advised to stay off the roads and highways. “Of course, with more than two feet of snow on the ground in many areas, there is an enormous amount of work remaining,” said Cohen. “The cleanup effort may take a week or more in some areas so it is critical that winter maintenance crews are able to keep up their intensity of work until safety and mobility is fully restored."
Suzanne Wenz, regional director of public relations for Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, said many staff members staying at the hotel, and others who live close by, worked long hours and did the jobs of colleagues unable to travel to work. “The good news is with this storm, we had several days to prepare.”
At the White Barn Inn & Spa in Kennebunk Beach, Maine, an emergency team of four or five people was put together beforehand to ensure enough hands were on deck and so staff did not have to drive. “They get to pick any room in the inn” to stay in during the storm and immediately afterward, and the chef prepares a special meal for them, said Corinne Finn-Heyl, the general manager.
“We turn some very dangerous experiences into fun experiences for our staff.”