It may have not been the snowstorm of the century on Thursday, November 15, but it certainly caused the traffic jam of the century.
When a few inches of snow hit the Bronx and rest of New York City in a higher accumulation and earlier than ‘expert’ meteorologists predicted, all hell broke loose on unsalted and unplowed highways, main roads and even residential streets.
The proverbial nail in the coffin came when a multicar pileup forced the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to shut down the George Washington Bridge at rush hour, causing a major backlash of the already congested Cross Bronx and Major Deegan expressways.
Stuck in that frozen over hell on I-87 was a packed bus of senior citizens from Bronx House Weinberg Neighborhood Senior Center, from 990 Pelham Parkway South.
Heading up to Westchester Broadway Theatre to see a performance of Phantom of the Opera, it ended up becoming a different type of haunting experience, as they didn’t return home until 4:30 in the morning.
Representatives from Senator Jamaal T. Bailey’s office had been waiting for the bus to finally return to Pelham Parkway near sunrise, saying that many of the seniors were “quite close” to becoming hospitalized.
That was just one of many problems with busses being stuck in the storm, though.
Because the snow’s ill timing coincided with school dismissal, an overwhelming number of school busses were also trapped in the perennial gridlock.
One mother from West 238th Street and Fort Independence Avenue had a particularly horrifying experience trying to reach her son with special needs.
Thirteen-year-old Collet Reyes boarded his bus home from the Rebecca School for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Midtown East at 3:15 p.m.
He didn’t get home until 9:18 p.m., spending a bulk of his evening stuck on the Grand Concourse by East Tremont Avenue.
“We knew there was going to be a delay,” said Collet’s mother, Kim Laing-Reyes. “What we didn’t know was that my son wasn’t going to be allowed to leave his seat to even stretch or be so cold that he couldn’t feel his toes for hours,” the frustrated mother said.
Laing-Reyes said that she was given inconsistent stories on the bus’ whereabouts and its estimated time of arrival, while mentioning that he wasn’t allowed to eat on the bus and that it took what she described as “an unusual route home.”
“He called me crying twice and the bus driver asked us to come get him, which they aren’t supposed to do,” Laing-Reyes said. “How did the driver expect us to get there if the traffic was so bad that the bus hadn’t moved for hours?” She acutely pointed out.
Collet’s horror story is one of many in the Bronx, though.
Students World View High School at 100 Mosholu Parkway were stuck on their bus rides home for an upward of five hours, according to one ROTC student there.
J.H.S. 144 at 2545 Gunther Avenue in Pelham Gardens also had students stuck on busses for well over four hours according to Kenny Agosto of Senator Bailey’s office.
In response to what many call the city’s negligence regarding its preparedness for the snowstorm, Bronx Park East Community Association held a protest on Allerton Avenue and Bronx Park East, adjacent to the Bronx River Parkway’s exit ramp which was hit especially hard by the storm on Monday, November 19.
“We did not see salt spreaders up here,” said BPECA co-founder and chairman Raphael Schweizer. “We demand accountability from the city and assurance there will be different protocol the next time it snows,” he added while saying that the city can’t handle simple operations from its elections to snowfall.