NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - New York City is getting ready for a storm cleanup like no other.
Plows will have to clear streets while avoiding new outdoor dining structures.
As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reports, it's the calm before the first snowstorm of the season in the city.
Restaurant owner Nick Verses, of Bar Dough in Hell's Kitchen, says he'll be cleaning up his outdoor tables and bringing in his heaters Wednesday, keeping his delivery staff on as long as it's safe.
"We'll close if we need to. It's not like I'm getting a ton of revenue that we need to stay open," he said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio warns that New Yorkers need to take this storm seriously.
"This could be the biggest storm in a few years, 8-12 inches. We know that could change," de Blasio said.
For the first time, city sanitation plows must take into account all of the outdoor dining structures that now line city streets.
"When we're getting a larger storm, secure everything that can be secured, so it doesn't bow around and it doesn't create a danger to anyone. And if you have the kind of outdoor dining set up that you can bring it all in, that's ideal. If you don't, it it's much more substantial, they can leave it there but secure everything that you can secure," de Blasio said.
The acting sanitation commissioner says his workers have been training for this, and have the equipment necessary to plow smaller streets, now made narrower.
"For our tighter block responses, we do have Holzners, which is just a small version of our salt spreader plows. And what we did throughout the offseason was we looked at where the restaurants were," said Acting NYC Sanitation Commissioner Ed Grayson. "We went out and did site inspections to look for roadway widths and we adjusted our routes so we can have smaller pieces service the areas where it is tighter."
The city Department of Sanitation says it has taken the new streetscape into account while training workers for plowing this winter. The acting commissioner notes those who will be plowing are the same crews on the streets every day now for garbage pickup and street cleaning.
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The mayor's office is also asking New Yorkers to stay off the roads, and rely on mass transit if they need to get around. But the MTA says it hopes people stay home. Trains and buses will operate as long as it's safe, but subways will still be shut down for cleaning between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., and possibly longer.
"It's possible we have so much snow at that point that we might be suspending some of our outdoor service," said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of the New York City Transit Authority. "Hopefully we're going to be able to open on time on Thursday morning, but that could be a moving target as well depending on what it looks like between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., 3 a.m and 6 a.m."
Ahead of the storm, New York City's Department of Sanitation has issued a snow alert, effective 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Currents models suggest eight inches or more of snow are possible.
Alternate side parking is suspended Wednesday and Thursday. Outdoor dining in roadways is suspended.
The Department of Sanitation says its workers and equipment are prepared, and salt spreaders have already been filled. Garbage trucks are being converted into plows. Plowing will commence once two inches of snow has fallen. Liquid salt brine will be spread on some roads that are known to freeze early. Sanitation expects to start spreading brine as early as Tuesday evening.
Under the snow alert, the Sanitation Department works with Office of Emergency Management and Department of Transportation on snow clearing. All roadway dining must close by 2 p.m. Wednesday. Officials estimate the snow alert could expire Thursday evening or Friday morning, at which point roadway dining could resume, depending on conditions. As of Tuesday morning, restaurant owners are not required to remove any barriers or structures to facilitate street cleaning, although all electrical heaters in the roadway must be removed.
The city is urging restaurant owners to remove any overhead coverings from their outdoor dining structures, if possible. Either that, or make sure they are routinely removing snow from those coverings. Restaurant owners are reminded they may not push snow into the street, which could slow down plowing. Snow should be moved next to buildings.
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