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State agencies prepare emergency response assets as weather system poses multiple threats

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Fri, Mar 26th 2021 10:30 am

High winds up to 60 mph in Western New York  could cause widespread power outages, difficult travel all day Friday

Rapid rise in water levels at eastern end of Lake Erie could cause significant lakeshore flooding through Friday afternoon

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday directed state agencies to prepare emergency response assets as a weather system is forecast to impact upstate locations starting Friday with high winds in Western New York and the Finger Lakes regions, lakeshore flooding along Lake Erie and potential flooding in the North Country through Saturday. High winds up to 60 mph at times are expected to impact Western New York and the Finger Lakes Region starting Friday, potentially causing downed trees and power lines that could lead to widespread power outages, as well as dangerous travel conditions. Potentially significant lakeshore flooding along Lake Erie is possible due to a rapid rise in water levels through Friday afternoon. In the North Country, a combination of rainfall, warm temperatures and snowmelt in higher elevations could cause flooding in some locations Friday into late Saturday.

"This incoming weather system has the potential to cause power outages and dangerous travel conditions across upstate New York due to high winds and potential flooding," Cuomo said. "I have directed state agencies to monitor conditions and be ready to support local partners with any resources they may need, and we will remain in contact with utility companies to ensure any power outages caused by high winds are addressed quickly. New Yorkers should take all necessary precautions now to ensure they, their families and their property are protected from any possible damage or power outages."

A deepening surface low is forecast to approach from the lower Great Lakes into Friday morning. Widespread showers arrived ahead of the system Thursday night. The strongest winds are expected to occur in Western New York and the Finger Lakes from early Friday morning through the afternoon.

Weather warnings and watches have been issued for high wind in Western and Finger Lakes regions, flooding in the North Country, and lakeshore flooding along Lake Erie. For a complete listing of weather advisories in your area, visit the National Weather Service website.

Agency Preparations

•Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services: The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services' Emergency operations center remains activated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will closely monitor weather conditions, coordinate state response operations, and remain in contact with localities throughout the duration of the event. State stockpiles are prepared to deploy assets to localities to support any storm-related needs, including pumps, chainsaws, sandbags, generators, cots, blankets and bottled water.

•Department of Transportation: The State Department of Transportation is prepared to respond with more than 3,630 supervisors and operators available statewide. Wind response tools (generators, chainsaws, light plants, hand tools, chippers, etc.) are being readied and loaded into response trucks for immediate dispatch. Statewide equipment numbers are as follows:

1,593 large dump trucks

312 large loaders

151 generators

49 grapple attachments

58 tractor trailers with low boys

80 chippers

55 traffic tower platforms and bucket trucks

14 tree crew bucket trucks

For up-to-date travel information, call 511, visit www.511NY.org or download the free 511NY mobile app.

•Thruway Authority: The Thruway Authority has 681 operators and supervisors prepared to respond to any weather-related issues across the state with 255 large plow/dump trucks, 108 medium plow/dump trucks, and 62 large loaders, as well as, small- to medium-sized excavators, portable VMS boards, portable light towers, smaller generators, smaller pumps and equipment hauling trailers. Variable message signs 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 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.

•Department of Environmental Conservation: DEC environmental conservation police officers, forest rangers, emergency management staff and regional staff are on alert and monitoring the developing situation and actively patrolling areas and infrastructure likely to be impacted by severe weather. All available assets are positioned to assist with any emergency response.

•Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: New York State Park Police and park personnel are on alert and closely monitoring weather conditions and impacts. Park visitors should check parks.ny.gov or call their local park office for the latest updates regarding park hours, openings, and closings.

•New York State Police: State Police are prepared to deploy additional troopers as needed to affected areas. All State Police specialized vehicles, including four-wheel-drive vehicles, snowmobiles and utility-task vehicles, are staged and ready for immediate response. All troop emergency power and communications equipment has been tested.

•Department of Public Service: New York's utilities have approximately 6,100 workers available to engage in damage assessment, response and restoration efforts across New York. Department of Public Service staff will track the utilities' work throughout the storm event and will ensure utilities shift the appropriate staffing to the regions anticipated to be impacted the most.

•New York Power Authority / Canal Corp.: The New York Power Authority and the Canal Corp. staff has performed preparations for the forecasted weather to ensure all facilities, assets and equipment are secured and ready. The Power Authority is prepared to support power restoration activities if needed.

•Port Authority: The Port Authority is monitoring weather conditions. Speed restrictions may be in effect at the bridges, as well as along roadways to and from the crossings. Passengers through the Port Authority's facilities encouraged to reach out to carriers and airlines directly for the latest information on delays and cancelations. For the latest information about Port Authority facilities, check social media, sign up for PA alerts or download one of the PA mobile apps.

Safety Tips

The governor’s office provided these safety tips for people to prepare for severe weather:

√ Know the county in which you live and the names of nearby cities. Severe weather warnings are issued on a county basis.

√ Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry.

√ Develop and practice a family escape plan and identify a meeting place if family members become separated.

√ Make an itemized list of all valuables including furnishings, clothing and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.

√ Stockpile emergency supplies of canned food, medicine and first aid supplies and drinking water. Store drinking water in clean, closed containers

√ Plan what to do with your pets.

√ Have a portable radio, flashlights, extra batteries and emergency cooking equipment available.

√ Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.

√ Have disaster supplies on hand, including:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Emergency food and water
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Essential medicines
  • Checkbook, cash, credit cards, ATM cards

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 you know when power returns. Consider using surge protectors wherever you use electronic equipment.

√ Call your utility provider to notify them of the outage and listen to local broadcasts for official information. For a list of utilities, visit the State Department of Public Service.

√ Check to see if your 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.

√ If you are 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 your pets.

√ Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion and dangerous driving conditions. If you 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.

For more safety tips, visit the DHSES website at www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/index.cfm.

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