These Snowstorm Conspiracy Theories Are Ridiculous

Snow in Windsor Terrace

It seemed pretty clear by about 11pm last night that the Blizzard of 2015 was not going to live up to the very high expectations that the people of New York (at least those who are active on social media) had for it. Initial reports from the National Weather Service predicted up to 36″ of snow in New York City, leading Mayor de Blasio to warn that the storm could reach “historic” proportions, and causing the average New Yorker (at least those who are active on social media!) to freak out and raid their local Trader Joe’s for the type of food products that make much of the rest of the country sneer at us, though fuck them, because kale salads with miso ginger dressing are delicious and are exactly what I want to eat during every snowstorm for the rest of time, the end.

But so anyway: The blizzard. As we all know by now, this epic storm wound up being more of just a regular snowstorm, depositing less than a foot in New York City (inches vary by borough, as is so often the case), and saving most of its wrath for Long Island and coastal New England (sucks to be you Boston, as per usual). And so, people are mad! They’re mad because their precious Seamless was taken from them! They’re mad because the mayor forced every vehicle that was not an emergency vehicle to be off the streets after 11pm yesterday! They’re mad because the subway system was totally shut down by Andrew Cuomo, our notorious piece of shit governor! They’re mad because they had to buy groceries and maybe have to spend the day with their kids and because how dare anyone call this “historic” when there haven’t been any reports of death and destruction! And so, people are turning to conspiracy theories. This, you guys, is ridiculous.

The main conspiracy theory going around right now is that Cuomo shut down the subway and bus service too hastily, denying New Yorkers their god-given right to the best public transportation infrastructure in the country (if not the world). Last night, Brooklyn Paper reported that because Cuomo caught the MTA unaware with his shutdown mandate, the MTA just kept running “ghost trains” all night long, meaning service was normal but people weren’t allowed to ride the rails. Man, that Andrew Cuomo is such a bastard! Or is he? Well, he is, but not really because of this! Animal New York reached out to an MTA spokesperson this morning who debunked the theory that trains were running normally, just empty:

The system was closed to passenger service, as a precautionary measure a handful of subway trains continued to operate throughout portions of the system to prevent rust buildup on the rails. During the winter season some of these trains are equipped with scraper shoes to remove snow and ice off the third rails on outdoor portions of the system. De-icing cars (which are retired subway cars) are also deployed to spray de-icing fluid on the third rail to prevent ice buildup. In addition to these safety measures, these trains are also used to transport work crews that are dispatched throughout the system for snow fighting duty such as clearing snow from outdoor subway yards, cleaning and salting station platform and staircases, and ensuring signals and switches continue to function.

What does that all mean? It means that service was suspended expect for the subway’s version of “emergency vehicles.” And lo and behold, now that it’s clear this won’t be a blizzard of “historic” proportions, the subways are back up and running, albeit on a Sunday (aka slightly slower) schedule. All of which means, subways were only out of service for ten hours, from 11pm-9am, which is, you know, SHOCKING to New Yorkers, but kind of par for the course for public transportation systems in other big cities.

But the conspiracy theory that is most infuriating is the one in which people are saying that the whole de Blasio travel ban was an attempt for the city to see how “obedient urban populations are to emergency decrees,” as if by staying inside at midnight on a Monday during a snowstorm was… I don’t know, letting the terrorists win? Or rather, by staying inside, we were all letting a dictatorial government flex its muscles and demonstrate that New Yorkers are sheep who will listen to everything it says. This is a theory which is, in a word, bullshit. There were real reasons to stay at home and be cautious last night, even if it hadn’t been midnight on a Monday, when, let’s face it, most New Yorkers would be home anyway. Serious weather can be serious business in this city, and the people who usually wind up dying during major storms are those who don’t stay inside and don’t follow precautions. That’s what happened during Sandy anyway—in New York City, the vast majority of those tragic deaths were due to people either not following evacuation orders, or going outside during the storm. But even without invoking Sandy, all we need to do is remember the Blizzard of 2010—the one that happened the day after Christmas, making it easily forgotten by people who were off visiting family in other states—when the subways weren’t shut down and people were stranded in subway stations overnight. Not only that, but because the subways weren’t shut down, it took a week to get them running again. Many streets weren’t plowed for days, particularly in the outer boroughs. This was the event that definitively convinced Bloomberg not to try to change the city’s constitution yet again and run for a fourth term! It fucking sucked, and anyone who went through it (and, like me, had to walk miles in white-out conditions just to get home) isn’t complaining all that much now about the horror of a work-from-home, stocked-fridge, Internet-functioning existence. Not even a little bit.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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7 COMMENTS

  1. My only complaint is that nobody is taking into account people who work at night. I’m a bartender who was lucky to be told to close at 20 to make the train home, but some people were literally stuck. And nobody at all seems to be making note of that. Everyone is all, “work from home!” But a bartender can’t simply work from home. It’s either lose a shift or get stranded, unless you live close. Conspiracy theories are bullshit, but it still was fucked up to jot consider the New Yorkers who had no choice in the matter in regards to their work schedules. And the storm pretty much not happening just makes that blow feel even shittier.

    • You’re totally right, Drew, that many people who work as bartenders, waiters, hourly employees on the night shift, and the like, got screwed. And that sucks. Not least because it is the very people who can’t actually work from home, and/or who need to work all their shifts in order to get by, that are already in the most tenuous positions in this city. But isn’t it better to have hours notice that the subways/buses are shutting down, so that employers and employees alike can prepare? Wouldn’t it have been worse to have underestimated a really terrible storm and have left people stranded far from home? The fact remains that the shut down happened at what was already about as low-key a time as New York ever experience—late at night on a Monday. There will always people who get fucked over either way, but I just don’t think this was a time when the government (even including officials for whom I hold little respect or trust) behaved poorly.

  2. It was not Mayor DeBlasio or Governor Cuomo who hyped up the storm. Read the official Weather Bureau doom forecast below, to which they were responding Our elected officials would have been called negligent if they had NOT responded to this incredibly dire and unprecedented (and incompetent) forecast. The more technology, weather models, and computer simulations that we utilize with regard to weather forecasting the less accurate we seem to be.
    It’s the Weather Bureau that blew it -BIG BIG time!!
    Read their super-doomsday snow prediction below:
    URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW YORK NY
    319 PM EST SUN JAN 25 2015

    …CRIPPLING AND POTENTIALLY HISTORIC BLIZZARD TO IMPACT THE AREA
    FROM LATE MONDAY INTO TUESDAY…
    …BLIZZARD WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 1 PM MONDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST
    TUESDAY NIGHT…

    THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NEW YORK HAS ISSUED A BLIZZARD
    WARNING…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 1 PM MONDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST
    TUESDAY NIGHT. THE BLIZZARD WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

    * LOCATIONS…NEW YORK CITY AND SURROUNDING IMMEDIATE
    SUBURBS…LONG ISLAND…AND MOST OF SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT.

    * HAZARD TYPES…HEAVY SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW…WITH BLIZZARD
    CONDITIONS.

    * ACCUMULATIONS…SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 20 TO 30 INCHES…WITH
    LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE. SNOWFALL RATES OF 2 TO 4 INCHES
    LATE MONDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING.

    * WINDS…NORTH 30 TO 40 MPH WITH GUSTS 55 TO 65 MPH…STRONGEST
    ACROSS EASTERN LONG ISLAND.

    * VISIBILITIES…ONE QUARTER MILE OR LESS AT TIMES.

    * TEMPERATURES…IN THE LOWER 20S.

    * TIMING…LIGHT SNOW WILL BEGIN MONDAY MORNING…WITH
    ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 3 INCHES POSSIBLE BY THE EVENING RUSH.
    SNOW WILL PICK UP IN INTENSITY MONDAY EVENING…WITH THE
    HEAVIEST SNOW AND STRONGEST WINDS FROM ABOUT MIDNIGHT
    MONDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY AFTERNOON.

    * IMPACTS…LIFE-THREATENING CONDITIONS AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
    TRAVEL DUE TO HEAVY SNOWFALL AND STRONG WINDS…WITH WHITEOUT
    CONDITIONS. SECONDARY AND TERTIARY ROADS MAY BECOME IMPASSABLE.
    STRONG WINDS MAY DOWN POWER LINES AND TREE LIMBS.

    PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

    A BLIZZARD WARNING MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE
    EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. FALLING AND BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS
    AND POOR VISIBILITIES WILL LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS…MAKING
    TRAVEL EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRAVEL. IF YOU MUST
    TRAVEL…HAVE A WINTER SURVIVAL KIT WITH YOU. IF YOU GET
    STRANDED…STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE.

    ALL UNNECESSARY TRAVEL IS DISCOURAGED BEGINNING MONDAY
    AFTERNOON…TO ALLOW PEOPLE ALREADY ON THE ROAD TO SAFELY REACH
    THEIR DESTINATIONS BEFORE THE HEAVY SNOW BEGINS…AND TO ALLOW
    SNOW REMOVAL EQUIPMENT TO BEGIN TO CLEAR ROADS.

    • Very true. It turned out that the Weather Channel had the forecast pretty much correct during the day and evening and adjusted it as data arrived. Kudos to them.

  3. Kristin, you’re totally right. I live right by the J/M/Z and heard the train going by…and was comforted by the sound. It means the train will be up and running in the morning. They even did this during the transit strike in 2005.

    And I have nothing against people holing up in their apartments eating kale salads, but the whole grocery store hysteria thing that precedes every possible snowstorm is just ridiculous. Fistfights at the Park Slope Food Co-op? Produce shelves at Whole Foods stripped bare? Runs on batteries and toilet paper? Even during Sandy my corner bodega was open and stocked with anything one could want. When I got home last night, I asked them whether they were closing. They laughed. And the breakfast sandwiches this morning were delicious.

  4. Good point about the blizzard of 2010 – how quickly people forget.

    Also, apparently there are even more conspiracy theories than these. According to the receptionist where I work, this was something to do with an asteroid that was passing over the earth. Or maybe it was a UFO. She wasn’t really clear on it.

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