It’s the nagging fear many have about our government: What would happen if martial law was declared? New York City just found out, at least temporarily.
Eleven states as well as Washington D.C. declared states of emergency in the wake of the massive record-breaking snowstorm that blanketed the East. But New York City went a step further. Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed emergency measures that seemed to many to be like “martial law” in New York City by ordering all people to stay inside under police enforcement. He issued an absolute travel ban for anything that is not an emergency vehicle.
The New York Police Department put out a blunt announcement on Saturday: “After 2:30 p.m. and you’re on the road, we will arrest you.”
As if that weren’t direct enough, the NYPD reiterated, “”Stay off the road. We don’t want to have to arrest you.”
The NYPD emphasized the need for safety, sending out additional tweets:
- “For your safety & ours, roads are closed in NYC except for emergency vehicles.”
- “We are asking people to make good common sense decisions. Use your head.”
- “Last year no one got arrested. People made the right decisions. We are looking for that again today.”
Reactions ranged from outraged to amused.
- “Threatens arrest citizens for being on the streets 1 day due to snow. Illegals are free to roam the other 364.”
- “Haha. Arrest away then fella’s.”
- “Calm down chief!”
- “Shouldn’t you help them get to their destinations safely instead of arresting them?”
- “What if this person is trying to get home?”
- “I get that the roads need to be clear for 911, but isn’t that a bit extreme?”
- “You are gonna have to arrest me, and I’ll take it to court. This is appalling. I want to leave NYC!”
- “You all drive prius’s How in the world are you going to arrest me & my 4×4 with them?”
- “You have made NYC go full Fascist!”
- “Russia now has more freedom than NYC!!!!!!”
- “*** martial law over a snowstorm. I pity us when there’s an actual emergency.”
A spokesperson for the New York Police Department said the ban just means no vehicles on the roads. Walking, running, and bicycles are permitted. “They can pedal all they want,” said the spokesman
The police did request people not to walk in the streets so people could do their job.
The travel ban was lifted approximately 7 a.m. on Sunday.
NYPD reported 25 summonses were issued during the travel ban, and one arrest for driving while intoxicated.
The massive cleanup continues as New York City and many other locations dig out from under the record-breaking snowfall, with some areas including Virginia and West Virginia reporting 40 inches of the white stuff.
The monster snowstorm claimed at least 19 lives across the East. While there were widespread totals of 24 to 36 inches, a few localized locations topped that. A National Weather Service spotter reported 42 inches of snow near Glengary, West Virginia.
Due to heavy bands of snow across portions of the mid-Atlantic, snow fell at rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour. Snow crews were unable to keep ahead of the storm, which led to some vehicles being trapped on the roads for more than 24 hours.
The weary work of cleaning up after the storm will take days or weeks. “While we are prepared more than we’ve ever been for a snowstorm, a storm of this magnitude requires patience,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “Don’t panic if you haven’t seen a snowplow on your street. We have a big city and there’s a lot of snow to move.”
Collapsed roofs were reported in many states. In Poolesville, Maryland, a barn roof crashed down on 12 horses. Although firefighters struggled to get equipment to the barn because of the snow, crews were able to rescue all the animals.
U.S. Capitol Police said a 44-year-old police officer died of a heart attack while shoveling snow at his home.
“The death of Officer Alston is truly a tragic loss for the Alston family and the United States Capitol Police, which in fact is one in the same,” said Chief of Police Kim Dine. “Officer Alston was someone who loved his job, and his loss leaves a huge void in the hearts of all of the men and women at the USCP.”
School closures are widespread throughout the region, and many airports remain closed or will have limited flights as runways are cleared.
Snow removal is a “major operation” and officials are urging residents to stay off the roads whenever possible. With many sidewalks impassible, people are often forced to walk in the street, complicating cleanup efforts.
“The longer you stay home, the quicker we get this done,” District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.
What made this storm so excessively snowy?
According to the website Mashable.com:
The storm resulted from a rare and potent mix of ingredients that came together at just the right moment to create a powerful storm. What’s more is that the storm was located in the perfect spot to produce an East Coast blizzard of the sort that might come along once in 20 years, or even longer for some.
First and foremost, there was an upper level low pressure area that dug a deep dip, or trough, in the jet stream across the southeast. The circulation around this low and the jet stream winds associated with it produced an area of strong lift in the atmosphere out ahead of it.
This helped trigger a surface low pressure area, which strengthened rapidly on Friday night and Saturday morning as it moved up the coast to a position east of the Delaware shoreline by midday Saturday. The upper low aligned itself on top of the low at the surface, creating a vertically stacked, whirling vortex off the East Coast that sat and spun like a top throughout the day on Saturday.
The moisture feed from this storm was incredibly long – based on satellite imagery, the storm was tapping moisture from as far south as the Bahamas, and as far east as the Gulf Stream waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The storm greedily gulped down this moisture via an unusually strong airflow known as a low level jet stream, which gave the storm a powerful east-to-west feed, which acted like a straw that the storm could suck on to ingest relatively mild, moist air.