New York airports were hit by a second polar vortex this week, triggering a wave of worries for the Port Authority, one week before the start of the Super Bowl.
Snow or no snow, at least 400,000 people are expected to attend the Super Bowl game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2, and the festivities kicking up around the championship. And officials in the area are getting ready for the wave of tourists — and, as forecasters are predicting, another deep freeze.
On Tuesday, as a snowstorm overwhelmed the city, officials got a glimpse of what could happen if another storm hits. Flight cancellations reached 3,000 on Tuesday and hour-long delays continued into Thursday, causing thousands of passengers to be stranded at all New York airports.
“It gets dangerous with the ice because the craft can slide,” said Delta Air Lines ramp agent Edgardo Villafane, explaining the reasons for the delays. “It moves a lot, and you never know what you’re going to get when go out there to push the craft. Our priority is safety.”
While meteorologists say the worst has past, many predict there will be another blast of cold air on Friday or Saturday.
Port Authority officials said in a press release on Wednesday that they had a game plan in place to handle the influx of visitors expected next week and ensure smooth service for commuters and travelers despite the snow.
“We have a detailed plan in place developed with all of our law enforcement partners to ensure a safe, secure experience for fans attending the game and the festivities leading up to it,” said Port Authority Police Chief Louie Koumoutsos.
Officials said Teterboro Airport, Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airport would add customer care representatives and dozens of volunteer staff to guide visitors to their destinations.
According to the press release, uniformed and plain-clothed police officers will be deployed to ensure rapid incident response, active traffic management and readiness in the event of severe weather during Super Bowl week. Their main role it seems will be to handle unhappy visitors frustrated by the delays.
“The snow makes the day go very slowly,” said Rafael Rodriguez, customer service employee at La Guardia, whose main role is to advise unhappy passengers. “We’re here to advise them on their different options.”
The Federal Aviation Administration expects more than 1,200 private and charter planes to fly into the region in the week leading up to the game. And many worry about the conditions of the roads and delays in public transportation
With more than 20 airlines flying to cities in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, LaGuardia has over 1,000 daily landings and takeoffs. In a phone interview on Friday, a Port Authority spokesperson said they were ready in case of extreme weather conditions during the Super Bowl, and with a quiet laugh, added that the Port Authority was always prepared for the worst.