2017-03-17 / Front Page

The Blizzard That Wasn’t... But Sorta Was

By Mark C. Healey

Stella, shmella…local surfer Luke Allen braves this wave during the height of Winter Storm Stella. Photo by Nancy Herman Stella, shmella…local surfer Luke Allen braves this wave during the height of Winter Storm Stella. Photo by Nancy Herman Rockaway and the rest of the New York area braced for a foot of snow – or more – from Winter Storm Stella, only to wake up on March 14 to find a lot less than expected.

That didn’t mean the storm was a harmless flurry. In fact, the wind gusts, below freezing temperatures and icy roads made travel virtually impossible. Schools and mass transit had been shut down on the peninsula as a stopgap to keep people in their homes, and most folks complied.

Except for the surfers, of course. Those daredevils saw the huge waves, and that was it. While most of us were enjoying a snow day – except for the poor souls who actually had to work in those blizzard conditions – hardcore surfers like Luke Allen braved the waves in a wetsuit.

The rest of Rockaway dealt with what it usually does when it has a storm like this; fear of storm surge.


While some surfers were stoked by the size and sound of the waves during the storm, many locals were concerned about storm surge. While some surfers were stoked by the size and sound of the waves during the storm, many locals were concerned about storm surge. All during the storm, people posted photos of the waves at the beach and bay side of the peninsula, many worried about flooding and other safety hazards.

Perhaps the biggest complaint was by residents who felt homeowners and even some businesses failed to clear their sidewalks as recently as Thursday as the Wave was going to press.

“I noticed many sidewalks today not shoveled and some inconsiderate dumping the ice in the streets where cars drive right into it,” wrote Tina Schlissel on Facebook.

Perhaps the most glaring problem is the continuing issue of beach erosion.

During Tuesday’s storm, as Parks Commissioner Mitch Silver was telling the NYC press corps that "we've seen no significant beach erosion" because of this particular snow "storm," The Wave in reply posted several photos taken by local Bill Gehlhaus in the Beach 90’s section of the beach that showed otherwise.


DSNY plows made sure that Rockaway Beach Boulevard was passable, evidenced by this photo, taken by The Wave’s Anna Spivak at around 9 a.m. on March 14. 
Photo by Anna Spivak. DSNY plows made sure that Rockaway Beach Boulevard was passable, evidenced by this photo, taken by The Wave’s Anna Spivak at around 9 a.m. on March 14. Photo by Anna Spivak. “We lost at least 15 feet of dunes. You can now go under the boardwalk, albeit just the ramp,” was Gehlhaus’ estimate.

Silver’s reply? “We have staff at the Rockaways to monitor conditions and a visit is possible.”

One city agency that did a great job was the Department of Sanitation, which many residents said were out plowing and clearing roads in force.

“Sanitation workers are doing a fantastic job clearing the streets in the district,” Councilman Eric Ulrich wrote during the storm.


According to Parks Commissioner Mitch Silver, there was “no significant beach erosion.” Photos by local Bill Gehlhaus in the Beach 90’s section of the beach showed otherwise. 
Photo By Bill Gehlhaus According to Parks Commissioner Mitch Silver, there was “no significant beach erosion.” Photos by local Bill Gehlhaus in the Beach 90’s section of the beach showed otherwise. Photo By Bill Gehlhaus So, it wasn’t really a blizzard, but it sorta was.

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