The city is still on track to receive up to a foot of snow on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the latest projections from the National Weather Service.
Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an update Tuesday afternoon on the anticipated snowbonanza, relaying the NWS forecast of 8-12 inches of snow between Wednesday and Thursday, though he stressed that that number could change in the next 24 hours. It's expected to begin snowing around 4 p.m. tomorrow, but Thursday morning is when there could be dangerous "blizzard-like conditions" with intense wind and intense snow.
The National Weather Service "have issued a winter storm watch; this is a serious storm," the mayor said, imploring New Yorkers to make adjustments to their plans for Wednesday and Thursday. "We have not had a lot of storms like this in the last few years, thank God...so this could be the biggest storm in several years."
There has been a lot of confusion about whether the city was completely suspending all outdoor dining or just some outdoor dining during the storm, with the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and de Blasio issuing multiple semi-contradictory instructions to restaurants about what is or isn't allowed. De Blasio cleared everything up during the press conference, explaining that while outdoor dining will indeed be stopped starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday in roadways and on curbs, restaurants technically can still serve food on the sidewalks.
"We're telling restaurant owners it's important if they can get equipment out of the roadway, especially heaters," de Blasio said. "But sidewalk dining is still allowed. It may be difficult obviously tomorrow evening, so everyone will decide whether it works for them or not...we're hoping by Thursday night that outdoor dining of all kinds will be back online again depending on the conditions of snow."
But earlier on Tuesday, a City Hall spokesperson told Gothamist that "sidewalk dining is strongly discouraged, especially for restaurants with tables and chairs near the curb."
Salt spreaders will be out in advance of the snow arriving, then plows will be deployed once there's enough accumulation on the ground on Wednesday evening. The mayor also asked that people think twice about driving anywhere on Wednesday and Thursday, and recommended they take mass transit (although subways will still not be running with passengers overnight) or work from home if possible.
Alternate side parking rules are suspended Wednesday and Thursday. Schools will be open Wednesday for both in-person and remote learning; a decision about Thursday will be made as more information about the storm becomes apparent. To the consternation of children everywhere, there will be no "snow day," just all remote learning.
Yesterday, the DSNY declared a "Snow Alert," telling restaurateurs with street dining that they will be required to remove or secure any tables and chairs in the roadway, put away all electrical heaters, and "if possible, restaurants should remove any overhead coverings, or regularly remove the snow from overhead coverings until the snow alert ends." However, they noted that they were not requiring restaurants to "remove any barriers or structures for roadway dining."
The DSNY estimates that the outdoor street dining closure could last until Thursday night, or possibly even into Friday. The city will notify restaurants when they can reopen for outdoor dining.
The city has only gotten a foot of snow or more in December in five of the last 60 years; the last time was in 2010, when the city got over 20 inches of snow.