Murphy declares state of emergency; NJ Transit rail, bus service resumes

TRENTON, N.J. (WCBS 880) — Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in New Jersey on Wednesday as a major snowstorm moved into the Tri-State area, threatening to dump more than a foot of snow in some areas.

The declaration allows for resources to be deployed throughout the state during the duration of the storm.

Murphy said Thursday morning that the state of emergency remained in effect. He said state offices, which closed at 1 p.m. Wednesday, would have a delayed reopening of 11 a.m. Thursday.

The governor said “the storm pretty much met the forecast” but that “we’re not out of the woods yet.” He said there were blackouts across the state, with the bulk of them along the shore and to the northwest. Troopers responded to 207 accidents and 426 motorist aid calls.

The governor cautioned that cold weather would stop the snow from melting, creating hazards on roadways through Thursday.

"Even though you are seeing black, wet roads, they're still icy and we're still working," said Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said.

NJ Transit rail and bus service remained suspended Thursday morning. Bus and Access Link service was set to resume at 12 p.m., while rail service was to come back on a rolling basis, Murphy said.

Service on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line, Raritan Valley Line and Atlantic City rail line resumed at 11 a.m.

Service on the Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton, Main/Bergen, Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines will resume at noon on a Level 2 severe weather schedule.

For the latest updates, visit the NJ Transit website.

While most highways remained in good shape, including the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, Murphy said a ban on commercial restrictions on roads wouldn’t be lifted until 11 a.m.

On Wednesday, Murphy told Michael Wallace that the state of emergency declaration means that "unless it's essential travel, you gotta stay off the road."

"It also is a big step toward limiting commercial traffic in the state which we have to do to allow our plows and we have 4,000 pieces of equipment around the state prepositioned. We gotta let them do their work as unencumbered as possible," the governor said.

Wind and snow created blizzard-like conditions at times Wednesday night into Thursday, leading to poor visibility and dangerous travel conditions, especially in northern New Jersey.

Northwestern suburbs in New Jersey could see more than a foot, while far northwest portions of the state could get nearly 2 feet.

"Across central New Jersey we anticipate snow to mix with sleet and while this may hold down accumulations it will make that snow heavier," Murphy said Wednesday.

Coastal flood and high wind warnings are in effect for the New Jersey shoreline.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti said Wednesday that they have activated all their assets for the storm. About 3,000 trucks will be out, with COVID precautions.

"Drivers in spreaders and plow trucks are alone," she said.

Murphy said commercial vehicle travel restrictions remained in place along the state's interstate highways.

If people must travel, the governor said drivers should make sure they have an emergency supply kit for their vehicle. Information on road conditions will be posted on highways across the state.

There were about 13,000 outages at one point, but crews are out making repairs and restoring service to customers.

Murphy said the storm interrupted some deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine to the state.

" I believe that is a disruption that will be measured, it will get there, but a little bit later," Murphy said.

Thirty-five hospitals are expecting their first doses Thursday or Friday.

The governor’s office is urging residents to follow these winter weather tips:

- Secure loose items in your yard such as trash cans, children's toys, and lawn decorations.

- Build an emergency kit that includes supplies for the whole family, including pets. Due to COVID-19 there are a few updates to preparing for this winter season such as including hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant supplies and cloth face coverings in your emergency kits/go-bags.

- Have cash on hand. If the power is out, so are the ATMs and credit card machines.

- Know how to report a power outage to your utility company.

- Know where your utility shut off valves (gas, electric, water) are and how to use them.

- NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

- Be sure to keep an adequate amount of gas in your car.

- Be sure to check on friends and neighbors who have access or functional needs. Due to COVID-19, in person visits may not be ideal under certain circumstances. Please adhere to social distancing guidelines and wear a mask. Use other means of communication such as phone, text or video chat to check on neighbors and help prepare them.

- Be sure to have extra medications on hand and keep them in a water-resistant container.

- Get all of your vital records and insurance papers together now. Keep them in a water-resistant container. If you can, scan and email them to yourself so you have a copy of important numbers and policies, etc.

- Charge your cell phones and try not to use them if the power goes out.