NEW YORK – Blinding snow brought the streets of New York to a frozen standstill Saturday. By mid-afternoon, the city was virtually on lockdown — no cars allowed, all buses and many trains stopped by a travel ban until 7 a.m. Sunday.
“This is a very big deal,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told residents. With 50-mile-per-hour winds and more than two feet of snow and ice, de Blasio told New Yorkers to listen.
“People have to take very seriously what’s going on here and recognize there’s a lot of danger and a lot of disruption that’s going to occur because of this storm,” de Blasio said.
Just a year ago, the mayor was heavily criticized for overreacting, closing roads and shutting down mass transit for the first time in its 110-year history for a storm that turned out to be a bust.
But Saturday was different — significantly worse than predicted. Earlier in the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped a driver stuck in the snow.
“Once the snowfall is over about three inches per hour, the plows just can’t keep up with it, and that’s when the situation becomes most dangerous,” Cuomo said.
By evening there had been more than 300 accidents, but none of them fatal. The NYPD threatened to arrest drivers who didn’t stay off the roads. CBS News spoke with one man who was taking his chances but had second thoughts.
“We almost got stuck a few times,” he said, urging others not to follow his example.
Broadway took the remarkable step of cancelling all shows, stranding people who’d planned to ride out the storm in a theater.
“I am nervous on roads that are snowy and icy, so I felt like everyone needs to get home and be safe, it’s all good,” ticket holder Margo Zimmerman said.
Bridges and tunnels were also closed, forcing people in the city to stay put for the night. Many area hotels offered special snow rates for those who were stranded.
Across the Hudson River, a full moon and high tides joined forces with the blizzard to flood communities along the Jersey Shore.
At Cape May, the morning high tide was over nine feet, breaking the record set during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Chunks of ice the size of coffee tables flowed down flooded streets in Ocean City, one of dozens of towns along the coast with roads shut down by the storm.
Officials in Barnegat issued evacuation orders. Scott Nevins left his home Friday night.
“That’s when I started getting like, ‘How much water are we getting in here?’ And that’s kind of why I started getting into a little panic mode,” Nevins told CBS News.
Mantoloking police chief Stacy Ferris worried high tides Saturday night and Sunday could cause major flooding.
“All that water is gonna come out of the bay and dump into our side streets,” Ferris told CBS News, adding that more than 200 homes could be impacted.
In Mantolocking, a 45-foot wall built and buried after Sandy was the only thing between tremendous surf and homes.
“Honestly, we feel a form of post-traumatic stress,” Ferris said. “They’ve rebuilt, right? They’ve come back bigger and stronger, and then you have another one at your door.”
Gov. Chris Christie, who declared a state of emergency Friday night, made several stops around the state.
“This is my 17th snow emergency in six years, so we know how to do this,” Christie said.
The road along the Manasquan Inlet was deserted Saturday evening with the water rising by the minute as another high tide moved in.