Lakewood’s Blizzard That Wasn’t

LAKEWOOD - Despite dire predictions of a blizzard that most felt would surely cancel schools and grind the town to a near-halt, most Lakewood residents had a wet but mostly normal day on Tuesday as shifting weather patterns turned the snowstorm to a heavy rain accompanied by strong winds before dawn.

On similar occasions in the past, when predictions of heavy snow did not pan out, most students in the town were left without busing. On Tuesday, regular transportation for nearly all of the town’s mosdos came as a welcome change.

“I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did my sons have busing, but even the Shacharis bus made its pickups. I’m sure the kids were disappointed not to get the snow day they were waiting for, but it’s much better that they’re learning, and easier for everyone this way. It is certainly not what any of us expected,” said one father.

The reversal did not come without effort. Lakewood’s public schools had decided to close the day before, amidst stern warnings from the state. In past years, transportation for mosdos was wholly dependent on the Board of Education and was tied to the public school schedule. Since the beginning of the school year, however, legislation has taken effect that transferred all transportation for non-public schools to the Lakewood Student Transportation Authority (LSTA), a consortium that administers bussing for the yeshivos and girls’ schools.

Baruch Hashem, the kids are learning today,” Avraham Kraweic, Director of LSTA, told Hamodia. “We waited till as late as we could to look at the situation and make a decision and it paid off. We are thankful that we have a good relationship with our vendors and their efforts were incredible.”

At 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, representatives of LSTA, the township, police, public works, and the mosdos held a conference call to evaluate the situation on the roads and see if conditions were safe enough to provide transportation. After deciding in the affirmative, LSTA, bus companies, and school administrators snapped into action and were able to provide regular transportation to nearly all non-public school students.

Not everyone escaped the storm’s wrath. Heavy winds downed trees and some electrical wires around town, and in the late morning over a thousand residents were temporarily left without power, including several schools in the Oak Street area. In another act of the newly found flexibility in transportation arrangements, several girls’ schools, including Bais Tova, Tiferes Bais Yaakov, and Bais Kaila bussed their students home at around noon, not knowing when electricity would be restored.

“I happened to have been home when my daughter’s school called that they were sending the kids home, but for mothers who were at work, I’m sure it was a major pain in the neck,” said one mother.

While most roads remained passable, heavy rains caused flooding in several areas and the section of Squankum Road near Bais Medrash Kol Shimshon was under several feet of water for much of the day.

Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein told Hamodia that public works personnel had teams driving around town throughout the day looking for drains that needed to be cleared of debris and residual snow banks.

The township had prepared to meet various scenarios.

Plows were initially sent out to clear overnight snowfall, but as temperatures rose, they were quickly pulled and replaced with equipment to control flooding.

“Now we’re working on treating the roads so that all of this doesn’t ice over by the morning,” said Mr. Lichtenstein. “I think everyone knows that it takes a little patience and people have to make safe decisions. But, we saw how fluid the situation was and the town tried to be as flexible and pro-active as possible to change our resources and adapt as quickly as we could.”