Snowstorm brings tragedy -- and controversy -- to New York City.
NEW YORK — The snowstorm that walloped the Southeast before moving up the East Coast and that has been blamed for at least 21 deaths, came with familiar snowy scenes, mayoral controversies and a tragic death in New York City.
As New Yorkers struggled to make their way around slushy streets, Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to keep New York City's schools open Thursday drew criticism and praise. Some said the conditions made it difficult for kids to travel while others backed his stance saying kids needed to be in be school.
"I think it's kind of crazy," said David Martino, 28, who was visiting New York from Oakland, Calif. "For those who have to find their own way to school, it's really dangerous. You could walk to school today and show up from your waist down soaked. And then, you're stuck in school for the rest of the day drenched. That's uncomfortable and it's not sanitary."
On Friday, commuters will face a messy morning of travel a day after the winter storm brought snow and ice to many states. Schools in New York City will be open. The storm is continuing to move north.
But on Thursday Martino himself was having a hard time walking around mazes of charcoal-colored snow. He was trying to pick up food quickly and said he couldn't imagine having to carry school supplies. Kids could slip, get sick, spread disease, or get made fun of for just looking sloppy after their trips, he said.
On Facebook, a page entitled, "Close NYC Schools During Snow Emergencies" got more than 24,000 likes. NBC's Al Roker also blasted de Blasio tweeting, "And how about all the parents and caregivers who have to scramble to get their kids home? Is there no one there with any common sense?"
De Blasio countered complaints during a news conference.
"So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day, a safe place — a place where they are not only are taught, they get nutrition and they are safe from the elements," he said.
"So many families have to go to work, the members of these families have to go to work, they do not have a choice, and they need a safe option for their kids. So as long as we know our kids can get to school safely, and we know we can operate our schools effectively, we make that decision."
Gabrielle Hernandez, 31, however didn't agree and kept her 10th grade son and 5th grade daughter home Thursday.
"That's part of being a parent — you have to deal with unexpected things that happen," she said. "School systems are not babysitters. They are meant for educating children and if they are not going to be educating children, why are they open?"
Hernandez added that a neighbor whose children did go to school said most lessons and tests were suspended because of low turn out.
Across New York, business people tried their bests to grip soaked briefcases. Parents loudly counseled their children into wearing proper snow boots. And one man in Midtown carried a little girl over grayish slushy puddles. Central Park was blanketed in 9.5 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
Sadly, the storm also brought tragedy to New York City, where police said a pregnant woman, Min Lin, 36, was loading groceries into her car and was struck and killed by a snow plow. Her baby was successfully delivered by cesarean section.