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De Blasio: NYC Schools Will Reopen Friday

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City public schools will reopen on Friday, and he is optimistic that New York City will be "largely back to normal'' after a fast and powerful winter storm.

But he warned that roads will remain slick and conditions treacherous.

As CBS2's Valerie Castro reported, the city's Sanitation Department had 2,300 plow trucks out clearing the streets as of 5 p.m.

At its peak, snow was falling at a pace of three inches an hour.

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"This is an unusually fast, intense storm," de Blasio said during a news conference Thursday. "We've had two hours in a row where we've had three inches of snow and that is unusual. We have a lot of storms that go a whole day, you talk about one or two inches an hour, but to have three inches two hours in a row is a real extraordinary level of accumulation."

Central Park saw 9 inches of snow by 2 p.m. CBS2's Lonnie Quinn said he expected the total to go up before the end of the day.

Some parts of Queens saw accumulations in excess of a foot.

Residents of Middle Village, Queens, said their neighborhood was completely neglected by the city for days after the record-setting blizzard of Jan. 23, 2016.

This time, residents said the plows were out.

People were digging out around their cars through the day. One man said the city plows did such a good job with the streets that they left parked cars surrounded with snow.

On one street, Jose Fernandez was seen using an all-terrain vehicle with a plow blade to take care of any snow left behind by the plows. He said he does it every time it snows to help out his neighbors, and he said the city has cleared the streets this time around.

"I just clean out the whole neighborhood, and everybody thanks me for it," Fernandez said. "I don't do it for the money. I just do it for the fun."

CBS2 jumped to ride along with Fernandez on the mini-plow. He said even though the city plows do the heavy lifting, he can tackle what is left over.

"Just about time to go smoke a cigarette and have an espresso," he said.

But not everyone got to take a break. Some worked hard to dig out their cars with snow shovels.

Josefina Villanueva still had to work on Thursday, and said traveling to and fro was tough. She said she waited half an hour for a bus, and the sidewalks were in poor shape.

"Are you kidding me?" she said. "Lousy -- they're bad."

But Mayor de Blasio was pleased overall with the city's progress in dealing with the storm throughout the day.

"We've had great coverage already, and we're going to just keep going," de Blasio said. "Look, the big deal for Sanitation is they need to keep going all afternoon, all evening, and then overnight to get us ready for tomorrow."

The Sanitation Department deployed more than 2,300 snow plows and spreaders to all five boroughs, hitting 90 percent of all streets by 7 a.m.

"We are full force, at least until probably the weekend," Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia told CBS2 Thursday. "We know that we are the first responders in an event like this."

The mayor urged New Yorkers to stay off the roads to facilitate street cleaning efforts.

"We need the people to get off the streets," de Blasio said. "Don't drive your car today, it's real simple. We need you off the streets. I understand sometimes people have no choice, but if you do have a choice don't drive your car."

"Sanitation needs you off the streets so they can do their job," de Blasio continued, adding that those who do need to get around should use mass transit.

Throughout the day, driving was very difficult, with one driver's struggle to escape a parking spot in Columbus Circle caught on video.

And in many places, blacktop was hidden under icy backroads – even Mayor de Blasio struggled to stay balanced. CBS2's crew ran into him randomly at a Staten Island Starbucks during the day, where he said the goal was for all city streets to be cleared in time for the Friday morning commute.

"Certainly, the highways I've been on today, I've been impressed how good they look already," he said.
"But in terms of side streets, they're going to need all night to get cleared, so hopefully by morning it's going to feel pretty good."

But on Thursday, the effects of the snowstorm were felt in every part of the city. In Coney Island, Brooklyn, despite the cold and snow people were out on the boardwalk, and about six members of the Polar Bear Club dived into the ocean in the afternoon.

"It's great, it's just a tremendous rush to celebrate the winter in the ocean," John DeQuino said.

On Staten Island, residents spent the evening trying to clear out residential roads. Many outer borough roads are cleared early and stay clear in almost every snowstorm, but some side roads are plowed early on in the day and then covered with more snow – or are not plowed at all.

Thus, it was on residents to do the heavy lifting. They had an uphill battle – sometimes involving actual hills – against heavy, wet snow to clear the small streets and sidewalks of Staten Island.

Marc Fappiano was plowing out roadways all around his West Brighton block.

"I got a top here (on the plow), so when the wind blows, it's not that bad," he told CBS2's Ali Bauman. "Without this, it's hard to stay out here that long."

Thomas Keane and Liam Field, both 12, did not have to go to school – but they were busy anyway as they learned a lesson in business – clearing driveways.

"Shoveling for moolah!" Thomas said.

"We made $110 -- $55 each," Liam said.

The storm brought additional hazards to firefighters and emergency responders. One person was killed and 10 injured in a fire on Staten Island during the storm.

Travelers also suffered through a difficult day: Some 1,800 flights have been canceled at the three major area airports because of the storm, according to Port Authority Spokesman Steve Coleman.

At one point, all planes in and out of John F. Kennedy International Airport were ordered held on the ground while crews cleared the runways, Office of Emergency Management Deputy Commissioner Calvin Drayton said during a mid-morning news conference.

And while conditions may return to a relative normal Friday, concerns about bitter wind chills and icy roads will persist. CBS2's Quinn said wind chills will drop to make it feel like 5 below zero to 10 degrees for most of the area.

Anyone experiencing problems with heat or hot water in their apartment building is urged to report it immediately to 311.

Alternate side parking rules will remain canceled Friday and Saturday.

"You don't have to worry about moving your car," de Blasio said.

Citi Bike service is suspended Thursday.

Click here to check the forecast.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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