After the Blizzard, Navigating New York's Puddles

The sidewalks have been mostly cleared of snow in New York City after last weekend's record-breaking blizzard. But what to do about the giant puddles the melting snow and ice leaves behind? Robert Smith reports on how New Yorkers are navigating these slushy sidewalk pools.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this DAY TO DAY. The record-breaking snowfall that buried New York City this weekend is beginning to melt, and that means record-breaking puddles of slush are now filling the streets.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

We have two snow reports. First, from NPR's Robert Smith who waded into the puddle story.

ROBERT SMITH reporting:

I was halfway across 24th Street when the water hit my ankles. This was it, the largest puddle in Manhattan. It was 15 feet across. It stretched for half a block, and it was getting deeper with every step.

Brett Silver hiked up his pants to slosh the final three feet.

Mr. BRETT SILVER (Resident, New York): It was epic. It was deep and wet and fantastic.

SMITH: As a New Yorker, Silver is a connoisseur of slush, but for the out-of-towners stranded on the curb, this seemed like the Bermuda triangle.

Mr. DARREN LABOWITZ (Resident, Los Angeles): That is the largest puddle I've ever seen.

SMITH: And where are you from, so I can judge your puddle knowledge?

Mr. LABOWITZ: Los Angeles.

SMITH: You've never seen a puddle before in your life.

Mr. LABOWITZ: It's called the Pacific Ocean.

SMITH: Karen Labowitz has every reason to be scared. This puddle delights in swallowing tourists. Maddie Knickerson(ph) just flew in from London, hopped into a cab at the airport and hopped out into six inches of ice cold water.

Mr. MADDIE KNICKERSON (Visitor to New York City): Oh, man. Shocking isn't it. Look at me. I'm soaked. Ma, you get my bag.

SMITH: Well, you just got out of a cab right into the middle of it. You had no warning.

Mr. KNICKERSON: No warning whatsoever, and it's deep.

SMITH: New York gets these puddles whenever piles of melting snow block the sewer grates. Every local has his or her own style for tackling the briny deep. There's the shuffle, feeling carefully for any sudden drop-offs. There's the leap, which sprays the slush up your pants. Some prefer the heel walk, others the tippie-toe, but few escape the dreaded wet foot.

But in the big city, one person's misfortune is another's amusement. Inside the cell phone store on the corner, the staff and the customers have been watching the slapstick all day.

Mr. SEBASTIAN SMITH (Resident, New York): As long as it's not you, it's funny.

SMITH: Sebastian Smith works the counter here and says he especially enjoys the look on people's faces when they get halfway across and start to swear.

Mr. S. SMITH: Oh, you can read their lips.

SMITH: Every epic challenge eventually calls for the hero, and ours is Adam Van Wickler(ph). His brand new sneakers on, he's slowly pacing back and forth on the curb, figuring out the narrowest part.

You've got beautiful white shoes. What are you going to do?

Mr. ADAM VAN WICKLER (Resident, New York): It's going to be a problem. I'm going to jump.

SMITH: There's no way you can jump that far. That's like five feet.

Mr. VAN WICKLER: It's pretty far. I'm going to try. Oh, yeah. See, made it with the toes, the toe jump. It worked.

SMITH: Giving the rest of us hope. Somewhere on the other side of this puddle, there is dry land.

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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