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Early Blast of Winter Sent NJ Into a Tailspin on Thursday.

(Jay Edwards – WRNJ)

Cars were stuck for hours turning highways into virtual parking lots, but why did this happen in a state that is so accustomed to major snow storms?

Governor Phil Murphy said on Thursday during the storm, “this storm is a lot worse than any of the forecasts, that we were in touch with”.

RNJ spoke with Tara Whispell of Walnutport Pennsylvania. Tara left Hackensaack around 2:45, and was traveling on Interstate 80. She said “I was stuck near Denville on I-80 and back roads. (Saw) Lots of abandoned cars, people stuck everywhere. No roads seemed to be plowed, with no authorities in sight. Was total chaos.” Tara did not get home until after 10 pm Thursday night.

This was echoed by thousands of New Jersey motorists who took to the roads to get home Thursday afternoon and into the night. Reports of tractor trailers jackknifing across the roadway, and vehicles running out of gas on the interstates furthered caused chaos.

Hackettstown Mayor Maria DiGiovanni posted on her Facebook page thanking the towns “DPW Department for not only clearing our town roads but taking on extra duties of State Rt. 46, Rt 182 (Mountain Ave), and Rt. 57. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a State DOT truck.” Towns are not responsible for state roads or county roads.

Mount Olive Business Administrator Andrew Tatarenko spoke of Mount Olive DPW’s response to the storm. “At 1:00 pm 9 salt trucks rolled out during the beginning of the storm, 500 tons of salt was used during the entire storm event. Forty-five (45) Township plow trucks started plowing around 3:30 pm.” As the storm got worse the town brought in an additional Six (6) plow trucks from companies the township has agreements with. As far as the planning for the storm, Tarantenko goes on to say “the planning process was the same for all winter events whereby we treat with salt before the snow starts and start plowing once the snow starts to accumulate.” Tarantenko noted that conditions worsened from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm as many cars were stuck which hampered response time and caused ice build up.

Mount Olive Police Department Spokesperson Corporal Marianne Wurtemberg said the police department responded to 15 motor vehicle accidents and 69 disabled motor vehicles during the weather event.

New Jersey State Police responded to just under 1,000 motor vehicle accidents, and over 1,900 motorist aid calls on state roads.

NJ Governor Phil Murphy was asked at a Friday morning press conference if there is a way to ban larger vehicles during storms. Murphy said there is a way preemptively by including those certain types of restrictions in State of Emergency Declaration.

The governor’s office held a joint press conference with representatives from the Department of Transportation, New Jersey State Police, and the Board of Public Utilities and offered an apology to NJ residents.

According to The New Jersey Department of Transportation director Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the department on Wednesday started pre-treating roadways with brine, which did not prove useful for the highways during the commute. “The state does not preposition crews to salt, only to plow”. The department plans to keep crews on the road until Saturday morning or later, and is responding to requests for roads that are still in poor condition.

NJDOT had 1,800 crews on the state’s roadways throughout the storm primarily in a salting capacity, until it was realized that they had to transition into a plowing operation during the middle of the storm.

The department of transportation plans to do a “post-mortem” assessment of the storm planning and response so they can make improvements for future storms.

The NJ Board of Public Utilities says during the height of the storm that there were over 11,000 power outages throughout the state, and as of 11 am

this morning are just shy of 9,000, primarily affecting Monmouth county and shore areas.

The storm turned fatal in New Providence, where a vehicle was struck by a New Jersey Transit train.

Stay with RNJ for the latest closings, and latest weather updates.

Story Published by Anthony Preziosi