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City and state officials defend winter storm travel bans

With many in the northeast waking up to far less snow than was initially anticipated from the blizzard, city and state leaders defended their actions.
Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York, on Jan. 27, 2015.

City and state leaders on Tuesday defended their decisions to institute travel bans and close down public transportation Monday evening, bringing some of the nation's busiest cities to a standstill over what ended up being just a few inches of snow.

Weather forecasters offered mild mea culpas on Tuesday morning for earlier predictions that estimated as much as three feet of snow would accumulate. And Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey lifted travel bans in their state and were working to quickly restore public transportation. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy also lifted travel bans for local roads in Litchfield and Fairfield counties. 

Not all areas were spared, though, and places like Long Island were hit harder, with reports of 16 inches of snow. Boston and other parts of New England also bore the brunt of the winter storm. Blizzard warnings also remain in effect for large parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where snow is expected to fall throughout the day. Many airports in the region also continue to experience massive delays and cancellations, stranding thousands across the country.

Despite many in the northeast waking up on Tuesday to far less snow than was initially anticipated, several politicians insisted that the restrictions were necessary and that it was better to be safe than sorry.

Cuomo acknowledged at a press conference on Tuesday morning that overall the snow was “less than predicted, which was good news.” In New York City, the storm was particularly mild, with only 4 to 6 inches of snow — as compared to the 20-plus inches some forecasters had predicted. 

When asked, Cuomo said he was not frustrated with forecasters for missing the mark. “We had a storm several weeks ago where I believe the forecast was for a relatively modest amount of snow. Then we had 7 feet of snow in Buffalo and we didn’t close roads, etc. because we weren’t anticipating 7 feet of snow.” He added, “Weather forecasters do the best they can and we respond to the best information we have.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — who initially said the storm could be one of the worst ever for the Big Apple — told CNN on Tuesday morning that “we thought we were going to get something much bigger.”

RELATED: NYC’s not-so-historic blizzard of 2015

De Blasio added, “This is a situation where the storm moved, thank God. It saved New York City and a lot of other places from a few very difficult days, but we had to be prepared … Better safe than sorry.”

Several lawmakers still urged caution, including Christie, whose popularity received a boost following his response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “I am asking everyone in New Jersey who doesn't have to drive this morning: Please don't. And those that do, please drive slow,” he said.

Christie did take a whack at the “mistaken forecast by the National Weather Service” on a local CBS station, saying he was told there would be 20-plus inches in several parts of the state. “Fortunately almost all of New Jersey is well below the really kind of Armageddon forecast they were giving us as late as 9 o’clock last night,” he said. 

Blizzard warnings were lifted for all of the Garden State. The National Weather Service said there would be a maximum of 6 to 10 inches of snow in the northeastern part of New Jersey and much less for the rest of the state.

At least one forecaster acknowledged they may have badly missed the mark.  “My deepest apologies to many key decision-makers and so many members of the general public,” tweeted Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey. He added, “This is a big storm further off to our northeast. New York City will see good amounts of snow, and for portions of New England it will be very high impact. But for much of New Jersey, and for the Philadelphia Metropolitan area, this is a big forecast miss.”

Malloy defended the travel ban, which isn’t completely over yet, noting places like Norwich received 24 inches of snow. Several accidents, he insisted, were avoided.