These Snowstorm Conspiracy Theories Are Ridiculous

Snow in Windsor Terrace
Windsor Terrace this morning.

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.

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