Everybody got stuck in the blizzard

KEARNY — Along with its usual myriad protect-and-serve duties, the Kearny Police Department last week had to deal with an avalanche of blizzard-related calls.

From Friday night, Jan. 22, when the first flakes began falling, until 8 a.m.

Monday, Jan. 25, almost a full 24 hours after they stopped, the KPD racked up a total of 406 calls from the public, “most of them snow- and vehicle-related,”

Chief John Dowie told The Observer. Included were 30 reportable motor vehicle accidents and “numerous reports of disabled and abandoned vehicles.”

Snowfall totals vary depending on which website you check, but we’ll go with the 26.5 inches the paper reported last week. If it wasn’t exactly 26.5, it sure looked like it. And felt like it to anyone who spent an hour — or, usually,  more — digging out their car. This was problematic snow — the heavy, wet stuff that prefers to sit, and pile up, where it fell. However, due to the strong winds, drifting was not uncommon.

Despite the conditions, too many drivers apparently ventured out during the storm, or too soon afterwards. Hence, all those “disabled and abandoned vehicles.”  And tow trucks that had to be dispatched to remove them from the streets so the streets could be plowed were getting stuck, too. So were the snow plows.

Dowie noted: “In 35 years, I have never seen as many large, emergency-type vehicles — plow trucks, salt spreaders, tow trucks, four-wheel drive emergency vehicles, ambulances and off-road type vehicles — become disabled because of weather.

“It got to the point where my officers were advising headquarters not to send conventional tow trucks to ther scene [of an accident or stranded car].”  Only the largest trucks, from the town or contracted towing services, could be dispatched, the chief said.

“If the public wants to know why there was a problem,” the chief continued, “it was a combination of people throwing snow into the streets and people going out despite New Jersey’s declared state of emergency [that banned vehicle travel on the roadways].”  Cars became stuck “and the conventional tow trucks, unable to navigate the streets to reach them, became stuck themselves.”

Compounding the problem: smaller Department of Public Works and KPD workforces and fewer vehicles, the chief said.

Despite all the headaches, figurative and literal, most of Kearny’s residents apparently did what they always do: They coped. And did not add to the dire situation. For which Dowie expressed appreciation.

“The overwhelming majority of people in Kearny,” he noted, “conducted themselves in a composed and commendable manner despite overwhelming and unanticipated conditions.”


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