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Words You'll Hear: Clean Up


It's time once again for our regular segment Words You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand stories we'll be hearing more about by parsing some of the words associated with those stories. Today, it may come as no surprise if you are in the eastern part of the U.S. that our word is cleanup. That comes as cities like Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charlotte and New York are climbing out of one of the biggest blizzards in decades. Here to tell us more about all of that is NPR's Eyder Peralta.

Hi, Eyder.


MARTIN: So I've been manning the fort inside, largely. What's it like out there?

PERALTA: It's actually really pretty. The big winter storm is now out to sea, and we have clear skies. I went for a walk in Washington earlier today, and maybe it's just because I grew up in Miami, but it's really magical. The snow is still white, and in some parts of the city, it's, like, thigh-deep. On the street corners there are these piles of snow that look like huge, white boulders.

MARTIN: OK, pretty. But the cleanup part - maybe not so pretty.

PERALTA: Yeah, I know. I met this guy Tyrone Hurley. He's lived in D.C. for a - his whole entire life, and he's got a good memory. He said the last time he saw this much snow was in 1996, and he was with a friend trying to make a few extra bucks by shoveling sidewalks, except he had a problem - kids. Let's listen.

TYRONE HURLEY: Yeah, the kids, yeah. We competing against the doggone kids. They doing it for a cheaper price. We name a price. They go lower.

PERALTA: But I'm guessing you could at least say hey, we're doing a better job than the kids.

HURLEY: Nah, I can't say that neither because they have four on the team. Me and him burnt out already from just walking around in it.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Well, he's honest, right?

PERALTA: (Laughter).

MARTIN: He's - At least he's honest that he's tired from just walking around in it.

PERALTA: Yeah, and it can be brutal here. Just down the street, I met Dinesh Tandon. He owns a little Indian restaurant. When I approached him, he was starting at the patio of his restaurant, which was just caked in snow.

DINESH TANDON: It looks so pretty I don't want to disturb it.

PERALTA: Has it felt, at times, like you're just never going to finish this thing?

TANDON: Oh, God. Right now it seems like that. I'm exhausted, but you know, I know it will finish - at some point, we'll be done with it.

MARTIN: Well, it sounds like he has a great attitude. But just to be clear, this was a very serious storm. At least 18 deaths have been blamed on the storm, and big cities have been shut down.

PERALTA: Yeah, no doubt. I spoke to a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Upton, N.Y., and he said this was a textbook nor'easter. A bunch of variables came together to produce a historic storm.

New York City, for example, missed its record snowfall by one tenth of an inch. Thousands of flights are still canceled, schools are closed, and before the storm, New York City took the rare step of shutting down the subway system and banning travel. New York's mayor, Bill de Blasio, says that we're in the age of extreme weather. His quote, "the shape of things to come" - he says the severity and volatility of these storms might change the playbook used to prepare for them. Let's hear a little from him.


BILL DE BLASIO: We're going to put even more warnings in place going forward. We're going to tell people preemptively to get ready to shut their businesses and do other things in advance because now, I mean - you look at this. It went from eight to 12 inches predicted on Friday to 27 inches. It's a cautionary tale for us about how we're going to have to deal with things in the future.

MARTIN: So it seems as if this preemptive approach worked pretty well in New York City.

PERALTA: I don't think you'll get any argument on that. Much of the subway there is up and running; the tunnels into the city are open; Broadway, which canceled shows yesterday, is back tonight; and also, bad news for the kids, no snow day for them tomorrow (laughter).

MARTIN: Boo-hoo.

PERALTA: But here in Washington, it's a different story. Things are moving a lot slower. The mayor received some criticism over the decision not to ban travel. It's hard to tell what kind of effect that had. But the Metro system will be limited tomorrow, and schools will be closed, and the side streets are still a mess.

As for air travel, airlines say they're doing the best they can. A JetBlue plane took off from LaGuardia earlier today, and most airports up and down the East Coast say they'll resume limited service tomorrow.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta. Eyder, thank you.

PERALTA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.