NJ Politics Digest: As State Fumes Murphy Blames Forecasters

Gov. Phil Murphy is facing severe backlash after the state found itself unprepared for a rush hour winter storm Thursday that was worse than anyone had predicted.

Gov. Phil Murphy
Gov. Phil Murphy Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Gov. Phil Murphy, who has spent the last year blaming his predecessor for ongoing problems at NJ Transit, now says its weather forecasters who are to blame for the state’s bungled response to Thursday’s winter storm that left motorists stranded in the cars for hours, school children stuck on buses and service cancelled at the Manhattan Port Authority terminal.

Murphy, who along with many other state officials was in Atlantic City on Thursday for the state League of Municipalities Conference, claimed he and others charged with keeping New Jersey’s roads clear were blindsided by the impact of the storm.

While acknowledging he was ultimately responsible for the failed response, Murphy was quick to add that “part of this is the forecasts were lousy, and I’m not going to let the forecasters off the hook. Secondly, this is a regional event. New Jersey didn’t get singled out. This whole region got crushed.”

Weather forecasters and Murphy’s political opponents are having none of it — laying the blame at the governor’s feet for allowing what was a routine snowfall turn into a nightmare for so many residents.

They point out that forecasts had been warning for days of a messy rush-hour commute Thursday evening, and that reports early Thursday indicated the snowfall would be more than originally indicated.

“If there is one certain thing about yesterday’s storm, it’s that everyone saw it coming,” is how Republican Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco summed it up in an op-ed piece on NJ.com. “The other certainty … is that Gov. Phil Murphy and his administration were ill prepared for the event.”

Gary Szatkowski, the former head of the National Weather Service’s Mount Holly office, said the weather forecast made it clear drivers would have problems and that now state officials were trying to trick them with their denials of responsibility.

“Now, I’m going to say something that all of you who follow me know, but which apparently will be breaking news to the @GovMurphy administration. Sleet and freezing rain are NOT driver-friendly weather phenomena,” Szatkowski tweated.

Major commuting problems are becoming increasingly routine in New Jersey, with NJ Transit plagued by an ongoing series of delays and cancellations that are frustrating and angering dependent riders. Murphy, who took office in January, in August promised to address the situation. He has blamed the problems on former Gov. Chris Christie — who on Thursday took to Twitter to slam the state for the five hours and 40 minutes it took him to drive from Piscataway to Mendham.

Murphy, who has raised the state’s gas tax and included almost $1.4 billion in tax hikes in his first state budget, has contended that residents won’t object to paying even more in taxes if they feel they are getting their money’s worth in state services.

Quote of the Day: “So whether you got eight inches of snow with a little sleet and freezing rain, or four inches of snow with a boatload of sleet/freezing rain, NJDOT planning would have produced the same result for NJ drivers. You were screwed. And now they are trying to trick you,” — Gary Szatkowski, the former head of the National Weather Service’s Mount Holly office

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NJ Politics Digest: As State Fumes Murphy Blames Forecasters