Slush Storm Hits New York

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Midtown Manhattan on Saturday was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

An unwelcome sight, perhaps, given the proximity of the snowstorm to Halloween. Slush accumulated in city gutters and visible white tufts clung to car tops and treetops throughout the afternoon, prompting such nicknames as Snowtober and Trick or Sleet.

The Weather Channel reported two inches of accumulation in New York City as of Saturday at six p.m. Another two to four inches were expected overnight, with the  Winter Storm Warning set to end at two a.m.

Tom Smalls, 24, stood on the sidewalk next to a City Sights NY tour bus on 48th Street and Eighth Avenue, near the Hell’s Kitchen Food Emporium, holding packages of yellow ponchos emblazoned with the City Sights logo. He didn’t have many takers, though – the buses weren’t attracting a crowd. From time to time, he bounced up and down on the balls of his feet to keep warm.

“We had a major snowstorm last year. It wasn’t as cold as this – or maybe it was, but it wasn’t this bad,” he said. Somehow, the combination of snow and the rain seemed worse. He planned to stop by Modell’s sporting goods store to buy snow boots he can wear to work, instead of the leather shoes he was wearing.

The snowstorm marks only the third time measurable snow has fallen on Manhattan since 1876, when snow was reported on October 15. Less than an inch was recorded in Central Park on October 30, 1925. The next time New York saw October snow was more than 25 years later, in 1952.

A New York Times article that year reported instances of “thunder accompanying the snowfall in some parts of the metropolitan area — as if to stress its unusual nature.” The phenomenon, affectionately nicknamed “thundersnow,” was also reported on Saturday.

The Weather Service detailed the historic enormity of the storm, reporting that since snowfall records began in 1869, an inch of snow has never been recorded in the month of October. “This breaks the daily record for snowfall in October and the most snowfall ever recorded in the month of October,” the public information statement read.

Michael Velazquez, an Empire State Building guard, stood at his post inside the building lobby, responding to inquiries about how to get to the observation deck by warning people that they wouldn’t “be able to see anything” up there.

“Visibility is zero, zero,” he said — though he had a tour group of 37 people — mostly students. It was his only tour group since he had begun his 4:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift, an unusually low number.

“I’ve seen days like this before,” he said. “Sometimes they [tour groups] don’t know that the weather’s bad,” or they book weeks in advance. “On a typical snow day, I’d say we get about three groups of 37 or more.”

Though normally the building attracts 4,000 visitors each day, Velasquez estimated that on Saturday there were only 100.

Staff writer Carly MacLeod contributed to this story.