SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Thursday's snowstorm caused massive traffic jams and cars at a standstill for hours, with stranded students waiting for parents at schools and on buses, and also, among all this, there were many accounts of strangers helping to move cars stuck in the snow, of friends and neighbors offering assistance to care for children until their parents could get home, and teachers, bus drivers, and school staff working late to make sure children were safe.
NIGHTMARE TRAFFIC IN SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD
The traffic in South Orange and Maplewood was worse than many residents could recall having seen from a snow storm in many years, if ever.
Martin Daly shared his experience on the TAPinto SOMA Facebook page of driving for close to twelve hours, writing: "I left my house in South Orange around 2:20 PM to get my daughter at her school in Montclair, it took me 2 hours to get there. We started home at 4:30 and were in standstill traffic on Main St in West Orange from about 5:00 PM until 2:00 AM. We finally made it home, total round trip time of 11 hours and 45 minutes."
Another person shared on Facebook that after being unable to move at all in traffic, she went to her parents home in Maplewood, where a tree fell damaging their house and totaling her car. "Everyone is safe," she added.
SOUTH ORANGE MAPLEWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT STUDENTS UNABLE TO GET HOME FOR HOURS
An update from the South Orange Maplewood School District on Thursday stated that "heavy traffic conditions are causing significant school bus transportation delays;" a subsequent update on Thursday called the delays "extreme."
Suzanne Turner, Director of Strategic Communications for the South Orange Maplewood School District, stated in an email on Friday that "not all buses completed their routes," and that "some students were picked up off a Marshall bus by parents."
In addition, Turner stated that "some students were taken to a police station by police officers, because their bus was stranded," and that parents and guardians were able to pick-up students from the station.
"All students were confirmed to have been picked up from school or delivered home by 10 p.m." on Thursday, stated Turner.
TEACHERS, STAFF AND BUS DRIVERS WORKED LATE INTO THE NIGHT TO ENSURE STUDENT SAFETY
At South Mountain School, the shuttle bus that takes students from the "Big School" to the Annex did not run at all as it was "unable to leave the parking lot due to slippery and snowy conditions," according to an email from the school on Thursday, that also stated that those students stayed would remain supervised at school until their parents could pick them up.
An email from the South Mountain School PTA on Friday thanked Principal Alyna Jacobs and school staff "for working all night to ensure our children’s safety."
The South Mountain PTA email read in part, "We are extremely grateful to Principal Jacobs and Treena Goodman who stayed at the big school and Shane Zeigler, Stacey Maebert, and Nina Treitler who were at the Annex until the last students were out of the buildings."
KINDNESS FROM NEIGHBORS, AND STRANGERS
The storm was a time also of neighbors helping each other, and of strangers lending a hand when they could, to help with stuck cars or with offers to those in traffic to come inside their homes to use the bathroom or get something to drink.
"After 4 hours on the road home, I was tired and needed a restroom. I saw the light on in a Synagogue, knocked on the door and was welcomed in. I’m was so grateful for the food offered, the facilities and the conversation," shared Melissa Demcsak on the TAPinto SOMA Facebook page.
The South Mountain School PTA wrote in an email, "We are grateful to our wonderful community for stepping up to help each other’s children get home from school safely and for providing food and support for those who were unable to get to their homes!"
This article will continue to be updated with SOMA residents' experiences during the storm. To share your story or photos, please email Anna Sandler at email@example.com.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article was updated to include information from the South Orange Maplewood School District.