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Cuomo deploys state resources to Western New York, Finger Lakes to combat significant wind storm

Press Release

Sat, Feb 23rd 2019 11:45 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers a briefing on severe winds to hit all of Western New York starting at 7 a.m. Sunday and continuing through 10 a.m. Monday. West winds sustained of 35 to 45 mph with hurricane gusts up to 75 mph are expected. (Photo courtesy of the governor's Flickr page)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers a briefing on severe winds to hit all of Western New York starting at 7 a.m. Sunday and continuing through 10 a.m. Monday. West winds sustained of 35 to 45 mph with hurricane gusts up to 75 mph are expected. (Photo courtesy of the governor's Flickr page)

Winds gusts may reach 70-75 mph in Western New York

100 members of National Guard activated to assist with debris clearance; utilities on standby to respond to power disruptions 24 hours a day

All empty tractor trailers & empty tandems banned from portions of New York State Thruway, interstate highways

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Saturday announced the deployment of state resources to the Western New York and Finger Lakes regions in advance of a weather system this weekend that will bring extremely strong winds that could result in property damage and power outages. Winds are expected to gust at or above 45 mph much of Sunday night and Monday over the vast majority of the state, with gusts approaching 75 mph at times in Western New York and western portions of the North Country.

Utilities are prepared to respond 24 hours a day to power disruptions and are mandated to implement their emergency response plans when needed. The governor activated 100 members of the National Guard to respond to debris clearing missions. Additionally, empty tractor trailers and empty tandems will be banned from portions of the New York State Thruway and some interstate highways in the Western New York, Central New York and Finger Lakes Regions beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday.

In Hamburg, Cuomo said, “Mother Nature can throw us a curve ball once in a while and can be a little deceptive. Today seems like a very pleasant day. The weather temperature for tomorrow is forecasted to be in the 50s. However, there's a big but, and the but is we expect very high winds and possible lake-effect snow as the temperature drops from Sunday into Monday, where we expect the temperature to drop into the 20s. So, today is nice and it's pleasant. Tomorrow the temperature will be fine. But we have a serious wind storm coming and then going into Monday it can be coupled with lake effect snow.

“Wind in and of itself is a problem. Wind plus lake effect snow is a worse problem. The wind is forecasted to be 40 to 45 miles per hour on a sustained level, and gusts up to 75 miles per hour. That is a significant amount of wind, and that is nothing to be trifled with. I know Erie County, we're tough, we're hearty, but 75 miles an hour winds are something to be taken very, very seriously. And we are. And we're preparing for them now.

“With the wind comes a possibility of power outages. We are getting prepared for that possibility. We have spoken to all the utility companies; they are on notice. We've spoken to the surrounding states for additional power utility companies to send their teams, need be. And we're redeploying assets from downstate where this storm is not really affecting the downstate area to redeploy those teams to Western New York if we need them.”

Earlier today, Cuomo issued a letter to the International Joint Commission calling on the IJC to maximize Lake Ontario outflows to prevent flooding along New York's shoreline. Lake Ontario levels are significantly higher than average, and high winds over the weekend threaten to create significant wave action and exacerbate the threat even further.

"With dangerously strong winds expected this weekend, I urge all New Yorkers to prepare for any potential power outages and to take the necessary precautions to stay safe," Cuomo said. "Utilities will be working around-the-clock to respond to any power disruptions, and the state is deploying significant resources and assets including National Guard personnel to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers."

Empty tractor trailers and tandems will be banned from the following interstate highways:

DOT Highways:

  • I-390 from Dansville to Route 104
  • I-490 from I-90 exit 45 to I-90 exit 47
  • I-590 (full extent)
  • Route 104 at the Bay Bridge
  • I-190 from Grand Island to Lewiston/Queenston
  • I-290 from I-190 to I-90
  • NY 5 from I-190 to NY 179 (with a full truck ban on the elevated section of the Skyway)
  • US 219 from I-90 to Peters Road
  • NY 400 from NY 16 to I-90
  • I-990 from I-290 to NY 263

Thruway Highways:

  • I-90 between exit 31 (Utica) and exit 61 (Ripley to PA line)
  • Niagara Thruway (I-190)

The system will begin moving into the state today and bring some snow and rain with it. By Sunday, all regions will be experiencing rain, and a cold front will enter the state bringing strong winds with it. Currently, Western New York and the counties along Lakes Erie and Ontario are forecasted to experience the strongest of the damaging winds. Gusts will increase across Western New York beginning Sunday morning, before spreading throughout the Finger Lakes, Central New York and North Country Regions as the day progresses. Wind gusts will rapidly increase up to 75 mph across Chautauqua County, the northern Niagara Frontier, Rochester and in Jefferson County behind the front. Strong winds over Lake Erie and Lake Ontario will also likely drive an increase in water level along the shoreline, as well as create significant blowing snow with reduced visibilities Sunday night and Monday morning.

One to three inches of snow is forecasted in the Western New York and Finger Lakes regions, and six to eight inches is expected in the Tug Hill Plateau region due to lake-effect germinated snow. With wind and snow combined, there will be blizzard warnings for Oswego, Jefferson and Lewis counties.

Current forecasts are projecting that maximum wind gusts will reach 45 mph in New York City and on Long Island; 50 mph in the Mid-Hudson, Capital, Mohawk Valley, Central New York and Southern Tier regions; 70 mph across the North Country; and 75 mph in the Western New York and Finger Lakes regions.

The National Weather Service has already posted high wind watches and warnings for the majority of the state. Additionally, lakeshore flood watches will be in effect Sunday into Monday for the counties east of Lakes Erie and Ontario as the powerful winds will create significant wave action.

For a complete listing of weather watches, warnings, advisories and latest forecasts, visit the National Weather Service website.

Motorists are reminded state law mandates that, if an intersection is "blacked out" and the traffic signal is not operational, the intersection is automatically a "four-way" stop. In the event of closed or blocked roadways due to flooding, downed power lines or debris, motorists are advised to exercise caution and obey all traffic signs or barricades in place, regardless of whether a roadway looks clear.

Agency Preparations

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services will activate the State Emergency Operations Center to enhanced monitoring mode on Sunday morning to closely track the weather system and its impacts. The division is also coordinating with state agencies and local governments to ensure resources from the state's 10 regional stockpiles are available for deployment throughout the storm. Currently, the stockpiles are prepared to respond to requests for assistance with assets from its stockpiles, including:

  • More than 725 generators
  • More than 1,250 pumps
  • More than 2 million sandbags
  • 19 sandbaggers
  • More than 6,700 feet of Aquadam

Department of Public Service

The Department of Public Service is in contact with utility senior executives to ensure the utilities are prepared for inclement weather, and it will be closely monitoring utility storm-preparation efforts to ensure that utilities stand ready to minimize outages and expedite outage restorations. Electric and gas utilities, as well as telecommunication service providers, such as Verizon, are prepared to bring on additional personnel to minimize service disruptions, if they occur. 

New York's utilities have nearly 7,000 workers available for restoration efforts, including more than 1,700 external line and tree crews brought on for this event, to be deployed in areas most impacted. The utilities are on alert and are closely watching as the storm develops, and will deploy restoration crews where needed. Department staff will continue to monitor the utilities' efforts during the storm event. Utilities will continue to secure added resources in anticipation of prolonged outages due to sustained winds, which may delay restoration efforts. 

Utilities are prepared to respond 24 hours a day to power disruptions and are mandated to implement their emergency response plans, when needed, which includes contacting customers on life-support equipment and other critical customers. New Yorkers should prepare for outages that may last several days.

In light of the potential significant inclement weather, the department has expanded its call center helpline hours beginning Sunday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., to assist consumers in storm response and restoration efforts. The department's call center helpline can be reached by calling 800-342-3377. Department staff will monitor and report on storm impacts and utility restoration activities throughout the event and will be present in the field, as needed. 

Department staff will continue to monitor the utilities' efforts during the restoration period. The utilities are prepared to respond to power disruptions throughout the event.

New York Power Authority

The New York Power Authority is preparing its facilities and operations for the forecasted weather. In Niagara, NYPA is staging equipment to prepare for any necessary ice boom repairs and for any needed ice-breaking activity. In addition, NYPA has taken the necessary actions for continued safe operations to support grid reliability. NYPA transmission crews are ready to respond to events that may impact the transmission system. NYPA also is in communication with municipal utility partners and investor-owned utilities to coordinate on potential mutual aid response to outages, if needed. NYPA will continue to communicate with utility and emergency management partners and will continue to monitor weather forecasts.

Department of Transportation

The Department of Transportation has more than 3,900 supervisors and operators statewide that are prepared to respond to this weekend's event. The department currently has 78 chippers, 53 traffic signal trucks, 15 tree crew bucket trucks and 45 loaders with grapple statewide.

In addition, to support response activities in critical areas, 15 wood chippers, four traffic signal trucks, one auger truck, one tree crew bucket truck, one medium-duty work truck, 27 portable variable message signs and 11 personnel – including eight traffic signal technicians and three tree crew personnel – will be deployed.

Thruway Authority

The Thruway Authority staff are prepared to respond to any wind related issues with 667 operators and supervisors across the state, small- to medium-sized excavators, plow/dump trucks, large loaders, and a number of portable VMS boards, portable light towers, smaller generators, smaller pumps and equipment hauling trailers, as well as signage and other traffic control devices available for any detours or closures. Variable message signs, highway advisory radio and social media are utilized to alert motorists of weather conditions on the thruway.

The Thruway Authority encourages motorists to download its mobile app, which is available to download for free on iPhone and Android devices. The app provides motorists direct access to real-time traffic and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert emails, which provide the latest traffic conditions along the thruway, by following this link: www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.shtml. For real-time updates, motorists can follow @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or by visiting www.thruway.ny.gov to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions for the thruway and other New York state roadways.

New York State Police

State Police will be ready to deploy additional troopers to affected areas as needed, and all commercial vehicle enforcement unit and traffic incident management patrols will be actively engaged for the duration of the weather event. All four-wheel-drive vehicles are in service and all specialty vehicles, including snowmobiles, utility task vehicles and boats, are staged and ready for use.

Department of Environmental Conservation

Department of Environmental Conservation police officers, forest rangers, emergency management staff and regional staff are on alert and monitoring the developing situation. Twenty-one saw crew teams are strategically located in key regions of the state and ready to assist with any tree clearing and response needs. In addition, all available assets, including snowmobiles and utility vehicles, are ready to assist with any emergency response.

Safety Tips

To prepare for potential power outages, New Yorkers are advised to do the following (tips courtesy of the governor’s website):

  • Have a list of emergency numbers readily available.
  • At home or at work, keep a battery-operated radio and flashlight on hand, as well as a supply of batteries. Keep an emergency supply of water, medications and nonperishable foods handy. If one uses medication that requires refrigeration, most can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem – check with a physician or pharmacist.
  • Make sure to have alternative charging methods for phones or any device that requires power. Charge cell phones and any battery-powered devices.
  • If one has space in a refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic containers with water, leaving an inch of space inside each one. This will help keep food cold if the power goes out.
  • If one has an electric garage door opener, locate the manual release level and learn how to operate it.
  • Keep car gas tanks at least half-full; gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. If one uses a car to re-charge devices, do not keep the car running in a garage, partially enclosed space, or close to a home. This can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Plan to have an alternative cooking source, such as a camp stove or outdoor grill. Follow appropriate safety rules for its use outside the residence.
  • If one is considering a generator for a home, consult an electrician or engineer before purchasing and installing.
  • Have extra blankets, coats, hats and gloves on hand to keep warm.
  • If one has a computer, back up files and operating systems regularly. Turn off all computers, monitors and other devices when they are not being used.
  • If one relies on anything that is battery-operated or power-dependent, such as a medical device, determine a back-up plan. For example, if one has a telephone that requires electricity to work, plan for alternate communication such as a standard telephone handset, cell phone or radio.
  • Learn about emergency plans in the area, including the location of the closest cooling and warming shelters, by visiting state and local government websites.

If experiencing a power outage, New Yorkers should:

  • Turn off or disconnect major appliances and other equipment, e.g., computers, in case of a momentary power surge that can damage these devices. Keep one light turned on so as to know when power returns. Consider using surge protectors wherever using electronic equipment.
  • Call a utility provider to notify them of the outage and listen to local broadcasts for official information. For a list of utilities in NYS, visit the New York State Department of Public Service.
  • Check to see if neighbors have power. Check on people with access or functional needs.
  • Use only flashlights for emergency lighting – candles pose the risk of fire.
  • Keep refrigerators and freezer doors closed – most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for several hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Do not use a charcoal grill indoors and do not use a gas stove for heat. They could give off harmful levels of carbon monoxide.
  • In cold weather, stay warm by dressing in layers and minimizing time spent outdoors. Be aware of cold stress symptoms (i.e. hypothermia) and seek proper medical attention if symptoms appear.
  • In intense heat, consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall or cooling shelter. If one remains at home, move to the lowest level – cool air falls. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing and drink plenty of water, even if not feeling thirsty.
  • If one is in a tall building, take the stairs and move to the lowest level of the building. If trapped in an elevator, wait for assistance. Do not attempt to force the doors open. Remain patient – there is plenty of air, and the interior of the elevator is designed for passenger safety.
  • Remember to provide fresh, cool water for pets.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion and dangerous driving conditions. If one must drive during a blackout, remember to obey the four-way stop rule at intersections with non-functioning traffic signals.
  • Remember that equipment such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and elevators may not be working.
  • If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location, such as the home of a relative or friend, or a public facility that has heat.

For a complete list of weather terms and preparation ideas before during and after a power outages, visit the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website athttp://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/outage/.

 

Photo link:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/40224669623/in/album-72157676749210067/

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