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Meteorologists, Lawmakers Up In Arms After Murphy Blames 'Lousy' Forecasts For Storm Chaos

"Next time politicians call for an evacuation based on weather forecast & you get poor response rate, look in the damn mirror for someone to blame."
"Next time politicians call for an evacuation based on weather forecast & you get poor response rate, look in the damn mirror for someone to blame." Photo Credit: Phil Murphy Facebook/Twitter

While saying that his administration was too slow in responding to Thursday's snowstorm, Gov. Murphy put some of the blame on "lousy" weather forecasts.

That didn't sit well with meteorologists and elected officials on the other side of the political aisle from the Democratic governor.

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the state's Department of Transporation chief, apologized to New Jerseyans.

Meanwhile, Murphy, while saying "the buck stops with him," said he was "not going to let the meteorologists off the hook. Let there be no doubt about it."

They immediately fired back.

"Sleet and freezing rain are NOT driver-friendly weather phenomena," tweeted Gary Szatkowski, the former head of the National Weather Service office in Mount Holley.

"So when the NJDOT person says they salted the roads, and planned to clean them up after the forecast 4 inches of snow fell, and their plans were ruined when 8 inches of snow fell, you're being scammed," Szatkowski contended. "Because what they are saying is that after 4 inches of snow fell, and everyone hit the roads to go home, they were planning to clean up while freezing rain/sleet were pouring down out of the sky.

"That's not a plan; that's a recipe for disaster."

Children in several districts statewide didn't get home until late Thursday. Officials at a West Orange middle school had a sleepover for more than 300 students and nearly two dozen staff.

Countless reports of people stranded for hours came in from around the state. Two deaths were being investigated as snow-related.

Several New Jersey lawmakers demanded an investigation into why the DOT wasn't prepared and why communication to citizens failed.

“Even though the storm was stronger than expected, the State Department of Transportation should have been on the roadways clearing and salting, but they seemed to have no impact on state highways,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39), whose district includes parts of Bergen and Passaic counties.

“The administration failed to provide updates as the situation unfolded,” Schepisi added. “With prior storms, we were briefed and provided with constant updates to convey to our residents....The only resource being promoted by the Governor’s office for updates, www.ready.nj.gov, had no information and the most recent press release on that site related to preparing for Hurricane Florence.

"Once the magnitude and lack of preparedness was realized, a state of emergency should have been called immediately with direction given for people to shelter in place," she said. "The lack of communication compounded the problem exponentially.”

Murphy said his staff was doing a postmortem on the state's preparation and response.

"We will analyze how we coordinate with state agencies and local communities, prepare for swift-changing weather forecasts, and most importantly, keep New Jerseyans safe," he said.

"Clearly, we could have done better," Murphy said in a news briefing. "And we will do better."

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