Many roads, including part of Thruway, remain closed: driving prohibited
For information on road conditions, call 511
State emergency operations center still monitoring situation
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today visited Western New York to tour the current storm conditions, where there is between three and four feet of lake effect snow already on the ground and an additional amount of up to two feet expected in the coming days.
The state has been working around the clock to rescue motorists stuck on the Thruway and other state roads, as well as provide help to other New Yorkers affected by the storm. All occupants of passenger vehicles have been evacuated, and there are 98 commercial vehicles currently being addressed. State teams are individually checking on the occupants of these commercial vehicles to offer assistance, and urge anyone needing immediate help to call 911.
The governor last night declared a state of emergency for affected counties so that residents can receive as much assistance as possible. With a significant amount of snow expected again this evening, the governor has instructed the National Guard, the New York State Police, and all state agencies to prepare to help affected residents and roadways.
"This storm is an extraordinarily difficult situation, with snowfall that may break records. We are prepared, but we need residents to stay off the roads so that first responders can do their work and keep people safe," Cuomo said. "Although the sun may be shining, we are using this opening to clear roads before the snow begins falling again. This is an opportunity to be a good neighbor and check on your fellow New Yorkers to see if they need assistance, but I urge everyone to stay off the road."
State Plows and Snow Removal Equipment Deployed to Region
The New York State Department of Transportation moved 199 plows and 446 operators and supervisors from around the state to Western New York to assist with snow removal operations. Additionally, they have secured three large snowblowers from Connecticut, which are expected to arrive in Western New York tomorrow. Plows are currently working to clear paths for tow trucks to assist motorists stuck in the snow. The Department of Transportation will have a total of 347 snowplows, 880 operators and supervisors, 36 loaders and 17 large snowblowers working on this storm. The department is fully stocked with road salt and has also activated private contractors to assist in clearing snow from roadways. Currently, contractors have provided 30 loaders and 60 operators, and that is expected to increase to more than 100 pieces of equipment by the end of today.
The New York State Thruway Authority has a total of 237 plow operators and supervisors working on the storm, with 116 plow trucks, 21 front-end loaders, four large truck-mounted snowblowers and 35,000 tons of salt. State Police have 66 4-by-4 vehicles, six ATVs, four snowmobiles, and three four-wheel-drive heavy duty armored vehicles assigned to storm response efforts.
The equipment from the Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, and private contractors that will be working on this storm by the end of the day totals 463 plows, 81 front-end loaders, 25 large snowblowers, and 1177 operators and supervisors.
Deployment of National Guard
The New York National Guard will have approximately 200 soldiers and airmen committed to helping today's recovery and preparation efforts. Soldiers of the 152nd and 827th Engineer Companies will deploy nine front-end loaders, six Bobcats, and 16 dump trucks to assist in snow removal operations as directed. Additionally, the National Guard will deploy 35 Humvees, each carrying two soldiers, from Central New York to the storm region to assist with traffic control.
National Guard Initial Response Force of 20 Airmen and five Humvees from the
107th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will deploy to assist
in traffic control duties. A second Initial Response Force from the 642nd
Aviation Support Battalion in Rochester will deploy 20 soldiers and five Humvees
to assist in snow removal at Eden Heights of West Seneca Assisted Living in
Two additional National Guard response forces comprised of 10 Humvees and 40 personnel from the 174th Attack Wing and the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Syracuse also are being sent to Western New York to assist in the response.
Finally, the New York Air National Guard has dispatched two large snowblowers used to clear runways from Syracuse to Western New York.
Travel bans are in effect in Lancaster, West Seneca, South Buffalo, Cheektowaga and Hamburg. During a travel ban, driving for any reason is prohibited. Travel advisories, which restrict drivers from any unnecessary trips, are ongoing in all of Erie and Genesee counties.
Due to the current condition of roads, road closures will be in effect until further notice. Driving on these roads is strictly prohibited and is unsafe for workers clearing the roadway:
Public Transportation Delays and Cancellations
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Southtowns bus service is still suspended due to continuing snow and impassable roads. Buses are still operating in the City of Buffalo and in the north towns. The following Metro routes are not running at this time: 14, 15, 16, 27, 36, 42, 46, 68, 69, 70, 72, 74, 75 and 76. All other routes are operating, but may be running late.
Additionally, all Amtrak service west of Albany is suspended.
As of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, there were about 715 New Yorkers without power, down from more than 9,000. To help with this, the New York State Public Service Commission will extend its call center helpline hours, which will continue until 7:30 p.m. tonight, as needed, to assist consumers in storm preparation and response efforts. The helpline number is 1-800-342-3377.
Public Service Commission staff will continue to monitor the utilities efforts throughout the storm and during the restoration period. The electric utilities are prepared to respond to power disruptions throughout the event.
The New York State Electric and Gas Corp. and National Grid are providing six vehicles to assist in efforts.
State Emergency Operations Center Open
Cuomo activated the New York State Emergency Operations Center in Albany on Monday at 8 p.m. It will stay open through Friday evening. Personnel from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (with staff from the office of emergency management as well as the office of fire prevention and control), Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Thruway, State Police, Public Service Commission and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs are on hand to provide assistance.
The storm is continuously being monitored by the office of emergency management, which is in close contact with the National Weather Service. The office has stockpiles ready to deploy to counties that request them, including resources such as generators and storm supplies. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services has regional directors and staff from the office of emergency management in the county emergency operations centers. The office of fire prevention and control has staff activated or deployed and currently operating at the New York State Emergency Operations Center, Erie County Emergency Operations Center and the UTV-Snowmobile taskforce.
Use Caution If Travel Is Necessary
It is important for motorists on all roads to note snowplows travel at speeds up to 35 miles per hour, which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit, to ensure salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off the roadways. Oftentimes on interstate highways, snowplows will operate side by side, as this is the most efficient and safe way to clear several lanes at one time.
Motorists and pedestrians also should keep in mind snowplow drivers have limited lines of sight, and the size and weight of snowplows can make it very difficult to maneuver and stop quickly. Snow blowing from behind the plow can severely reduce visibility or cause whiteout conditions. Motorists should not attempt to pass snowplows or follow too closely. The safest place for motorists to drive is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted.
Some of the most important tips for safe winter driving include:
•Never follow a snowplow too closely or attempt to pass one. Remember the highway ahead of the plow is usually snow-covered;
•Adjust speed for road conditions and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles;
•Schedule extra time for winter travel and be patient during ice and snow removal operations;
•Assume bridge surfaces are slippery, as they freeze more quickly than road surfaces;
•Be wary of black ice, which can be difficult to see, but makes conditions slippery when pavement temperatures are below freezing;
•Have a cell phone handy, if possible, but do not text while driving; distracted driving is illegal and becomes even more dangerous during storm events;
•Never venture from your vehicle if snowbound;
•Equip your car with emergency supplies, including sand, shovel, flares, booster cables, rope, ice scraper, portable radio, flashlight, blankets and extra warm clothes;
•Inform a responsible person of your destination, intended route, and estimated time of arrival; and
•Keep calm and do not panic in case of a vehicle breakdown, accident, or if you become snowbound.
Motorists should also include the following emergency items in their vehicles:
Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, can increase the risk of a heart attack. To avoid problems:
•Stay warm, dress warm and slow down when working outdoors.
•Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion.
•If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in the jaw or radiating down the arm - stop and seek help immediately.
If you lose power:
•First, call your utility to determine area repair schedules.
•Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate when power has been restored.
•If heat goes out during a winter storm, keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.
Alternative Heating Safety Tips
Other home safety tips include:
•When removing snow and ice from driveways and sidewalks, stay clear of electric and natural gas meters to avoid damaging them, inadvertently disrupting service or putting yourself in danger. Snow and ice can damage electric and natural gas meters, natural gas pipes and natural gas regulators, so never bury any of this equipment when shoveling, using a snowblower or plowing.
•When removing snow or ice from a roof, never let it fall on electric or natural gas meters or related equipment.
•Natural gas appliance chimneys and vents should be kept free of snow and ice to prevent the build-up of potentially deadly carbon monoxide.
•Be prepared if you smell natural gas. If you smell that distinctive sulfur-like odor - like the smell of rotten eggs - get up, get out, and call your utility immediately from a cell phone or neighbor's phone.
The New York State Department of Transportation provides a travel advisory system that features real-time travel reports and can be accessed by dialing 511, online at www.511ny.org, or via a downloadable smart phone app. The website features a color-coded map indicating which state roads are snow covered, ice covered, wet, dry or closed to help travelers determine if travel is advisable. The system provides real-time snow and ice conditions for interstates and other heavily traveled roads, as reported by snowplow operators.
Motorists can sign up for TRANSAlert emails regarding Thruway traffic conditions at http://www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.shtml. Thruway travelers are encouraged to visit www.Thruway.ny.gov for real-time traffic updates. To see an interactive map including Google traffic conditions for the Thruway and other roadways in New York and beyond, visit http://www.thruway.ny.gov/travelers/map/index.html?layer=traffic.
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services also recommends residents should prepare their homes and families for winter weather. This includes stocking up on supplies in the event a winter storm or power outage prevents you from leaving your home.
Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs to see if they are in need of assistance. Additional safety tips can be found on the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/publicsafety/winter.cfm.
Watch a video clip: