New York City's Record Snow in February 2003
>> The New York-area snow of Monday, February 17, 2003 was a record-breaker in multiple ways.
It was the first snow, for instance, that equaled any I've experienced in Milwaukee, WI, my former home. Being from the Midwest, I'm expected to be an expert in show and during my past five years here, I've told everyone that in comparison, New York felt like Florida to me.
Not this year.
When cars disappear under the drifts, you don't need the weatherman to tell you that this was some serious stuff.
The good thing, however, is that snow is warm. Leading up to this day were stone-cold, blowing-down-the-Hudson-type chillers. We're talking seep-through-the-walls cold weather.
My apartment in Weehawken, NJ, where these first two photos were taken, overlooks the Hudson and Manhattan at 50th Street. During January, the Hudson entertained everyone with ice flows. On this day, however, soft drifts covered all the chunks, completely stopping boat traffic, including the robust, NY Waterways Ferry down the cliff from me.
The New Jersey Transit Buses into Manhattan stopped running very early in the morning. Independent buses, however, ploughed through the snow, giving me an opportunity to travel into the city around 4:00 PM. Because the preceding days were so cold, I dressed in multiple layers, including double jeans. Surprise! By late afternoon, the day was a very cozy 32-degrees.
A sight I had never seen in Milwaukee were teams of entrepreneurial snow shovelers working the streets.
I waved down four guys, gave them $20 (bargain) to unearth my own barely-visible Honda Civic, then boarded an independent bus to New York while they worked. Always trust New Jersey labor and bus drivers to make things move! When I returned the next day, my car was completely clean. The cars that didn't receive such TLC were iced in.
Arriving in Manhattan was a sweet, warm and quiet experience.
In contrast to the panic-prattle excreted from the media, New York's streets were filled with happy people walking around, taking pictures.
The snow's girth was unusual. It was moist and lightly lumpy, rather than packed by footsteps. Every step was like on a featherbed. It reminded me of biscuit dough when you cut in cold shortening before the whole mass becomes elastic. It simply didn't pack, but it didn't fall apart, either.
I stayed the night in Brooklyn (Hicks Street near the Brooklyn Bridge) so I could get to my job without problems. The next photo, taken on Tuesday, February 18 at around 7:00 AM, shows you what everyone faced.
Nothing moved except hopeful pedestrians like myself.
I walked to a subway station that offered an half-hour ride to my office. Predictably, even though I left an hour early, I arrived at my destination on Kings Highway two and a half hours late and was lucky to get there at all.
That particular line (the F-train) runs above-ground in Brooklyn and the tracks were snow-packed, covering the live, zillion-bolt electric strip down the center. Not an easy area to clean! I believe that I caught the trail-blazing first train to Kings Highway. The trip was more like fitful jogging than traveling by rail.
New York spent its entire snow budget on these two days, with the strong backs of City workers doing a tremendous job. The Kings Highway station (pictured) was only barely shoveled when I arrived and, in fact, I stepped off into a knee-deep drift, being the first person on the platform at that point.
And you know what? Besides the snow, another record was set that week. By Saturday, most of the snow was gone!
Rain quickly and efficiently swept it away. If it weren't for these photos, it's hard to believe it even snowed at all.
Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 3/12/2003. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.