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Cuomo activates emergency operations center ahead of lake effect storm

Press release

Thu, Jan 8th 2015 09:00 pm

Part of Thruway to close to all traffic at midnight this evening due to high winds, extremely low temperatures, and lake-effect snow

Thruway tractor-trailer ban in effect beginning Thursday evening at 9 p.m.

Western and Central New York through Watertown expected to see heavy snow, high winds, and extreme cold

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today activated the New York State Emergency Operations Center in preparation for another strong lake-effect winter storm. The storm is forecasted to bring heavy snow, high winds and bitter cold temperatures, dropping 2 to 3 feet of snow south and east of Buffalo, and at least 3 feet of snow north of Syracuse through Watertown. The rest of the state could see anywhere from 1 to 8 inches of snow.

The governor directed state agencies to prepare resources in response to the expected heavy snowfall, which is expected to start later tonight and last through Saturday afternoon.

Cuomo also announced parts of the New York State Thruway in Western New York will be closed due to extreme winter weather conditions. The mainline Thruway, I-90, between Exit 46 (Henrietta) and Exit 61 (Shortman Road), as well as the Niagara Section, I-190, between I-90 and Exit 16 (I-290), will be closed to tractor-trailers at 9 p.m. tonight. Starting at midnight, these same sections will be closed to all traffic. Vehicles traveling westbound on I-90 will be detoured off the roadway at Exit 46 (Henrietta), and all eastbound traffic will be detoured off at Exit 61 (Shortman Road). All vehicles traveling south on I-190 will be detoured off at Exit 16 (I-290).

"With heavy snow approaching parts of Western and Northern New York, the state is activating the emergency operations center to coordinate our response and get critical equipment and supplies quickly to the communities that need assistance," Cuomo said. "I urge New Yorkers to take necessary precautions to stay safe during the storm, and avoid our roads and highways where possible."

The National Weather Service has issued lake effect snow warnings for southern Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties starting at 10 p.m. tonight; Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties starting at 1 a.m. Friday; southeastern St. Lawrence County at 4 a.m.; and northern Herkimer and Hamilton Counties starting at 11 a.m. Heavy snow, winds and bitter cold will combine to create blizzard-like conditions at times, including Friday morning during the commute in the City of Buffalo. Motorists should avoid any unnecessary travel in the Buffalo region during this storm.

State equipment ready for this storm includes:

  • 1,793 plows
  • 4,184 operators
  • 55 front-end loaders
  • 488,000 tons of salt

The New York State Emergency Operations Center will be activated at midnight tonight to monitor the storm. Agencies that will be staffing the center are Military and Naval Affairs, Homeland Security and Emergency Services and its offices of emergency management and fire prevention and control, Public Service Commission, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Transportation, Thruway and the New York State Police. The Office of Emergency Management has been in close contact with the National Weather Service as well as counties that may be impacted by this storm.

Starting later tonight through Saturday in the affected counties, forecasts are calling for snowfall rates of up to 3 inches per hour, which will result in near zero visibility and snow-covered roads. Motorists should be aware that, during Lake Effect storms, very heavy snow bands can occur and shift without warning. If a driver must travel, he should reduce speeds and drive with extreme caution.

New York provides a travel advisory system that features real-time travel reports and road conditions, which can be accessed by dialing 511 or online at www.511ny.org. 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. It also provides links to airport, rail and transit information.

The DOT has a total of 1,444 plows and 3,629 operators and supervisors available for this storm, along with 372,000 tons of road salt. There are 189 plows and 409 operators in the Buffalo region to clear snow, 104 plows with 223 operators ready in the Syracuse area, and 121 plows with 203 operators ready in the Watertown area. They are prepared to shift additional resources as needed to assist the hardest-hit areas.

The Thruway Authority has a total of 349 large- and medium-sized snow plows, 555 snowplow operators and supervisors, 55 front-end loaders and 116,000 tons of salt deployed across New York for storm response and recovery efforts. The Thruway Authority also is relocating 10 plows, 28 operators, three loaders and one large snowblower from eastern New York to the Buffalo region to assist throughout the duration of this winter weather event.

All regional troop commanders of the New York State Police have identified resources and staffing for the storm. Troop emergency management personnel have been pre-designated to staff open county emergency operation centers, and State Police continue to closely monitor road closures and restrictions with the DOT and Thruway Authority. All specialty vehicles in the State Police's fleet, including four-wheel-drive vehicles, have been prepared for emergency response use.

Snowplows travel at about 35 miles per hour, which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit, in order to ensure salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off the roadways. The safest place for motorists is well behind the snowplows, where the roadway is clear and salted.

Motorists and pedestrians should never assume a snowplow driver can see them. Snowplow drivers have limited sight distances, with the wing blades of the vehicles obscuring side views. The size and weight of snowplows 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. 

Motorists are encouraged to sign up for TRANSalert emails, which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway. Motorists can sign up for TRANSalerts by following this link: http://www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.shtml. Thruway travelers can get real-time updates by following @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or by visiting http://www.thruway.ny.gov to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions for the Thruway and other New York state roadways.

In case of power outages at traffic signals, motorists should treat an intersection as an all-way stop.

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