Murphy: ‘Perfect storm’ led to mass problems on roadways

A breakdown in communication and a “perfect storm” of circumstances led to the rough road conditions during Thursday’s snowstorm that led to widespread accidents and delays in the region, according to Gov. Phil Murphy.

“It came stronger and hit us harder than anyone or any organization had forecasted, and that is a fact,” he said during a news conference Friday morning in Woodbridge.

Murphy addressed reporters Friday, along with Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal, New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan and Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso.

Murphy said there will be a “deep post-mortem” on the issues with buses in New Jersey and between the state and the Port Authority bus station in New York City.

“At the minimum, the communication was completely unacceptable,” he said.

The Department of Transportation brined the roads Wednesday and, by Thursday afternoon, 1,800 pieces of equipment were deployed to handle the storm, he said.

“Unfortunately, the worst of the storm coincided with the early dismissals from schools and workplaces, meaning that, just when we needed the road crews and all that equipment out there the most, they were competing with folks — understandably, by the way — trying to get back home at the same time, as well,” Murphy said.

The accidents also caused more delays as they impacted access to roadways.

Murphy stressed the storm did not just impact New Jersey but was also equally unexpected and problematic in neighboring states in the region.

In total, as of Friday morning, there were nearly 1,000 accidents reported, 1,900 motorist aid requests and one fatality at a railroad crossing. Murphy said the administration is unsure if the weather played a role in the fatality.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the department and administration will have to figure out how to coordinate better with the National Weather Service next time.

“We understand the frustration; we’re not happy with it,” she said. “We don’t pre-position trucks to salt … we pre-position trucks to plow. So, that’s why people did not see trucks pre-positioned before the storm. We got behind the storm.”

She added the agency will recalibrate and figure out how to respond better to the next storm.

“This was a perfect storm, to use a word that probably isn’t appropriate,” Murphy said. “It wasn’t forecasted to be the storm it was.”