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 held a storm briefing in Western New York on the current winter storm conditions, where there is in some areas more than five feet of lake effect snow already on the ground, with up to two more feet expected. 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 45 commercial vehicles that have chosen to wait out the storm at Thruway service areas after being checked on by state teams. The New York State Police urge anyone needing immediate help to call 911.
The governor declared a state of emergency Tuesday night for affected counties so that residents can receive as much assistance as possible. With a significant amount of snow expected again today and tomorrow, the governor has instructed the National Guard, the New York State Police and all state agencies to prepare to help affected residents and roadways. State offices remain closed today in the counties declared states of emergency.
"Tremendous progress has been made in clearing vital roads, with help getting here yesterday and more help on the way," Cuomo said. "With that being said, phase two of the storm is on its way and safety continues to be our top priority. As snow removal efforts continue, we urge people to stay inside and off the roads so that we can get people back to their everyday routines as quickly as possible."
State Plows and Snow Removal Equipment Deployed to Region
The state has assembled more than 1,275 personnel and 658 pieces of heavy equipment, including 463 plows, 129 loaders, 40 dump trucks and 26 snowblowers to continue to address snow removal. The New York State 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 also has activated private contractors to assist in clearing snow from roadways. Private contractors have committed 70 loaders, 40 large dump trucks and 220 personnel to assist in the cleanup. An additional 122 operators with 28 loaders and 33 dump trucks are expected to arrive later today.
The New York State Thruway Authority has a total of 281 plow operators and supervisors working on the storm, with 116 plow trucks, 23 front-end loaders, four large snowblowers and 32,000 tons of salt. In addition, 12 operators, five large snowblowers, and two mechanics from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission arrived overnight to assist the Thruway with snow-clearing operations. 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.
Deployment of National Guard
The New York National Guard will continue to add troops and equipment to its joint task force operating from Buffalo's Connecticut Street Armory today.
More than 300 soldiers and airmen will be on duty today conducting snow-removal missions, traffic-control missions, route reconnaissance and emergency medical personnel movement missions. Soldiers also have been clearing paths at the homes of disabled residents at the request of the office for people with developmental disabilities. Airmen from the 107th Airlift Wing have been removing snow from the roof of the Eden Heights Nursing Home in West Seneca. Additionally, the office for people with developmental disabilities and the office of mental health are coordinating with the National Guard to provide transportation for staff in the affected areas to get to work so they can relieve staff at residential facilities, who have been working multiple, consecutive shifts because of the storm.
Teams of National Guard soldiers and airmen have been removing snow in Cheektowaga, Batavia and Buffalo, and conducting traffic control operations in West Seneca and at New York State Thruway on-ramps.
Equipment on hand today will include two large Air Guard runway clearance snowblowers, 17 Bobcats, two D-8 bulldozers, 13 front-end loaders, 43 dump trucks, and more than 50 Humvees. More equipment will be made available as required.
Soldiers assigned to the mission are assigned to the 153rd Troop Command and 152nd Engineer Company from Buffalo, the 827th Engineer Company in Horseheads, the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion in Rochester, the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which has elements throughout the area, the 105th Military Police Company in Buffalo, and the 42nd Infantry Division.
Air National Guard Airmen supporting the mission are assigned to the 107th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, and the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia.
Travel bans are still in effect in these areas due to expected snowfall rates of three or four inches per hour and additional accumulation of two to three feet in the Lake Effect snow areas.
The following driving bans are in effect in Erie County: The Town of Elma, Town of Alden, Village of Alden, Town of Lancaster, Village of Lancaster, Town of Marilla, Town of Orchard Park, Town of West Seneca, City of Lackawanna and the City of Buffalo (South Buffalo only).
The following driving bans are in effect for Genesee County: The towns of Alexander, Le Roy (excluding the Village of Le Roy), Bethany and Pavilion; and Darien and Pembroke (including the Village of Corfu), due to a high number of abandoned vehicles and impassable roadways. No travel is permitted with the exception of emergency services inside the towns of Alexander, Bethany, Darien, Penbroke, (including the Village of Corfu) and Pavilion.
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 south towns 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, Amtrak will restore service to route 63 and 64, the Maple Leaf, between New York City and Toronto. All other Amtrak service west of Albany is suspended.
As of 10:30 a.m., there were about 315 New Yorkers in the region 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 today until 7:30 p.m., 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.
State Emergency Operations Center Open
Cuomo activated the New York State emergency operations center in Albany Monday. It will stay open through next Monday 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 and the affected counties and municipalities. 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, the City of Buffalo and has activated the UTV-snowmobile task force.
The office of fire prevention and control and Erie County are managing a team of local and state agencies to assist with response efforts. Teams are using specialized vehicles and equipment, including ATVs, snowmobiles, K-9 teams, search cameras and listening devices to search through inaccessible areas of buildings and large snow mounds.
Additionally, the office of fire prevention and control has deployed teams, including urban search and rescue units, to address structural collapse issues due to additional heavy snowfall, and is coordinating with local and regional collapse rescue assets in Erie, Monroe and Cayuga counties for potential deployment to any incident in the affected areas. Special operations branch staff has deployed to Erie County equipped to support size-up and initial search operations at structural collapse incidents. Additional units are staged and ready for rapid deployment in Western New York and Northern Adirondacks if needed.
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 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 overexertion.
•If you feel chest pain, shortness of breathe, 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:
•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 prepare their homes and families for winter weather. This includes stocking up on supplies in the event a winter storm or power outage prevents one from leaving 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.