New Jersey residents, officials express frustration after storm chaos

SOUTH AMBOY, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said "the buck stops with me."

There were nearly 1,000 accidents and roughly 2,000 calls for help from drivers on state roads during Thursday's snow storm. One woman died when her car got stuck on railroad tracks and hit by a train in New Providence, N.J.

People were stranded on state highways overnight and children slept in schools.

Gov. Murphy explained there were two major problems with yesterday's storm. First, New Jersey was forecast to get 4 inches of snow, but some parts of the state got 10 inches.

"It wasn’t forecasted to be the storm it was," said Murphy. "It switched and came upon us very quickly."

Secondly, Murphy said commuters, school buses and plows all hit the road at the same time, during the height of the storm. This clogged snow-covered roads and prevented plows from getting through.

"We had those salt trucks out there," said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who was on I-287 and I-78 during yesterday's storm.

"You could see those trucks, they were trying to get down a shoulder to clear a shoulder," she said. "They couldn't get into the travel lanes."

State police say there were multiple tractor-trailers jack-knifed across highways blocking exit ramps or three lanes of traffic.

"Once that highway stops, your entire snow plow operation stops," said New Jersey Police Commissioner Col. Patrick J. Callahan.

One way that some of this mess could have been prevented is a state of emergency. This tool at the governor's disposal would have allowed him to shut down state roadways; ban large vehicles like tractor-trailers; and dismiss schools and non-emergency public employees early.

But Murphy said today that a state of emergency was not an option.

"A state of emergency is a prophylactic. It's a step you take in advance, not in the middle of an event," he said. "The fact of the matter is this came out of nowhere, the severity came out of nowhere, and the state of emergency at that point, isn’t relevant."

Commuters, including one former governor, were not all forgiving.

“It took me 5 hours and 40 minutes to travel from Piscataway to Mendham," tweeted former Gov. Chris Christie, who tagged Murphy in his post and thanked followers who said they missed him in office.

Commuters took to social media to share video and photos of their hours-long stand-still on state highways. One commuter captured an image of NJ Transit commuters pushing their bus through the snow.

Educators in West Orange, N.J. shared images of students who were stuck at school overnight.

Hundreds of New Jersey commuters packed the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, when a lack of buses made it impossible to get through the Lincoln Tunnel.

New Jersey Transit still hasn't restored service on two of its train lines, the Gladstone Branch and North Jersey Coast Line. The Coast Line is expected to be back up and running tomorrow, while Gladstone riders won't have service until Monday.

Roads are clear but officials warn of freezing and icy conditions tonight.