Tour bus ticket vendor Amara Fofana (right) talks to supervisor Johnny Morales (left) outside a tour bus in Times Square as temperatures start to drop. Photo by Rajeev Dhir.

Tour bus ticket vendor Amara Fofana (right) talks to supervisor Johnny Morales (left) outside a tour bus in Times Square as temperatures start to drop. Photo by Rajeev Dhir.

New Yorkers got a little reprieve from the bitterly cold conditions that hit the city as well as different parts of the country over the last few weeks.

The mercury hit a high of 45 degrees around lunchtime on Monday afternoon because of warmer winds coming in from the south.

But that relief could be short lived, as seemingly arctic-like weather will force temperatures into a downward spiral overnight. They are expected to remain below seasonal averages for the next few days.
“Earlier it was fine, but now you can feel like it’s getting colder. I can already feel it,” said Amara Fofana, a sightseeing tour bus ticket vendor for Skyline Tours, which offers two-hour trips through midtown and downtown Manhattan.

Fofana spends eight hours a day in Times Square enticing tourists to ride one of 18 double-decker tour buses operated by the company.

Dressed in a hoodie and a windbreaker, the 39-year-old said he managed to sell roughly a dozen tickets on Monday. When the weather gets colder, he said, he relies on a different sales approach.

“I tell them about the heated downstairs of the bus,” he said. “The downstairs fills up quickly in the winter time.”

Big swings in weather, like the uptick that greeted New Yorkers early Monday afternoon are not uncommon for the city, said Edwin Gerber, assistant professor at New York University’s Center for Atmosphere Ocean Science.

“New York lies within a storm track, a region between the cold Arctic and the warm subtropics,” said Gerber. “When the jet stream wobbles poleward, we tend to get warm air from the south and west. When it swings cold, it’s wobbling the other direction, bring(ing) cold air from the north and west.”

Even with the warmer break on Monday, Fofana said this winter has been one of the coldest he has seen and is afraid the frigid temperatures might freeze up his bottom line.

Rows of empty seats on the upper deck of a tour bus in Times Square as temperatures start to drop. Photo by Rajeev Dhir.

Rows of empty seats on the upper deck of a tour bus in Times Square as temperatures start to drop. Photo by Rajeev Dhir.

“I sell tickets by commission. If I don’t sell tickets, I don’t get paid at the end of the week,” he said, cupping his gloved hands over his mouth.

Skyline typically sells 500 tickets a day, but is lucky if it can sell a few hundred when temperatures plummet, said supervisor-dispatcher, Johnny Morales.

“We had some people out earlier, but as you can see there’s no one coming in. It’s definitely dying down as it gets colder,” he said.

Morales, 26, said being outdoors in this kind of weather all day also presents other challenges, including personal safety.

“You’ve definitely got to stay warm,” he said, ducking into a bus full of rows of empty seats for shelter.
The Journal of the American Medical Association says people should wear appropriate clothing when outside (notably hats) and limit the amount of time outdoors when the weather is extremely cold to prevent getting frostbite.

Tour supervisor-dispatcher Johnny Morales takes shelter from the cold. Photo by Rajeev Dhir.

Tour supervisor-dispatcher Johnny Morales takes shelter from the cold. Photo by Rajeev Dhir.

“When we get the customers here we take them inside (the bus) and explain to them the route,” said Fofana, which helps both the vendors and the customers stay warm.

Willisha Norris, 42, who purchased a ticket, said she was planning on doing a lot of indoor activities while touring the city.

Sales drop when the temperature does for tour companies like Skyline Tours. Photo by Rajeev Dhir.

Sales drop when the temperature does for tour companies like Skyline Tours. Photo by Rajeev Dhir.

“I want to see the Empire State Building and I want to go up in there. And I got my little tickets and I’m very excited right now and I want to go ahead and go to the Gucci store in Macy’s,” she said. “But I’m okay with this weather, as long as it’s not snowing.”

The Weather Channel expects an overnight low of ten degrees with winds coming out of the northwest Monday evening followed by a high of 20 degrees on Tuesday and a 14-degree overnight low.

“If it really drops I have fur on. I’m not going to let the cold stop me,” Norris said, showing off her heavy fur coat. “I’ve got my gloves. We have shelter, cold and strength and we’re blessed.”