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Hochul, National Grid responding to heavy windstorms

Sat, Dec 11th 2021 05:05 pm

Hochul deploys emergency response assets as damaging winds move across state Saturday

√ High wind warning issued for Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Clinton, Erie, Franklin, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Wayne & Wyoming Counties

√ Winds gusts of 60 to 70 mph expected, lakeshore flood warning issued for both Lake Erie & Lake Ontario

√ Tractor trailers and box trucks banned until further notice on Buffalo Skyway (Route 5) from I-190 in Buffalo to Ridge Road in Lackawanna, I-81 from exits 48 to 52 near Canadian border

√ Empty trucks, trailers and tandems banned on NYS Thruway (I-90) between exits 42 (Geneva) to 61 (Ripley) as well as Niagara Thruway (I-190)

√ State's utility companies have brought in 1,300 out-of-state personnel in preparation for weekend weather event

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Saturday deployed emergency response assets from numerous state agencies as high wind warnings were issued for many counties across the Western New York, Finger Lakes and North Country regions until late Saturday evening. A strong weather front moved across the state Saturday bringing high winds and a soaking rain to many parts of the state. The winds, which will see peak gusts of up to 70 mph in parts of Western New York, are also expected to produce lakeshore flooding impacting Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The strong winds are expected to bring down trees and power lines in impacted regions, which may result in scattered power outages. The cold front may also produce isolated thunderstorms.

Hochul also announced the state's utilities have mobilized internal, contract and external contract and mutual assistance resources in preparation for this weekend's weather event.

"Western New York, the Finger Lakes and North County regions should be prepared for extreme weather moving across the state later today, including strong winds and damaging floods," Hochul said. "The state's emergency operations center is monitoring the weather, and our response agencies stand ready to assist county partners and utility crews as needed. Use this time now to secure items outside of your home from the wind and have the necessary supplies on hand in case of a power outage."

High wind warnings will be in effect for Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Clinton, Erie, Franklin, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Wayne and Wyoming counties. Portions of the Southern Tier and Capital Region can expect winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts nearing 50 mph. Rain will move across the state beginning Saturday and ending late Saturday evening leading to drier weather on Sunday.

For a complete listing of weather advisories in your area, visit the National Weather Service website.

State Agency Preparations

•Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services: The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services' emergency operations center is activated and will closely monitor conditions, coordinate 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 New York State Department of Transportation is actively engaged in the current weather event. All affected residency locations will be staffed for 24/7 operation throughout the duration of priority response operations. Mechanic support will be available 24/7 to keep response equipment operational. Staff can be configured into any type of response crew that is needed (flood, chipper, load and haul, sewer jet, cut and toss, traffic signal, etc.). The DOT’s incident command system structure is activated and will remain fully staffed throughout the duration of this event.

Forty-six generators with extended fuel capabilities for traffic signals affected by power outages have been deployed to supplement existing regional supplies in Central New York, the Finger Lakes and Western New York. Additional preassembled traffic signal heads are being deployed to the Finger Lakes to support response/repair activities. Flood and debris response tools (generators, pumps, chainsaws, light plants, chippers, grapples, hand tools, etc.) are being readied for immediate dispatch.

Patrols are being conducted to maintain situational awareness of general conditions at the onset of high winds. As of noon, tractor trailers and box trucks are banned on Route 5 (Buffalo Skyway), from Interstate 190 to Ridge Road in the cities of Buffalo and Lackawanna (until further notice). In the interim, motorists should plan on using an alternate route.

Additionally, empty, high-profile tractor trailers and box trucks are banned from I-81 in the North Country from Exit 48 to 52.

Statewide equipment numbers are as follows:

  • 1,576 large dump trucks
  • 51 loader-grapple attachments
  • 323 loaders
  • 33 tracked excavators
  • 46 wheeled excavators
  • 40 tractor trailers with lowboy trailer
  • 14 tree crew bucket trucks
  • 30 traffic signal trucks
  • 77 chippers 10" (minimum) capacity

•Thruway Authority: The Thruway Authority has 676 operators and supervisors prepared to respond to any wind related issues across the state with small to medium-sized excavators, plow/dump trucks, large loaders, 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 and social media are utilized to alert motorists of weather conditions on the thruway.

Empty trucks, trailers and tandems are banned on the thruway (I-90) between exit 42 (Geneva) and exit 61 (Ripley to Pennsylvania line) and the Niagara Thruway (I-190). Speed reductions may be implemented if necessary.

Thruway maintenance staff are actively patrolling the thruway in areas with the highest forecasted winds. The thruway's Buffalo division emergency operation center has been activated to closely monitor weather conditions and reposition or deploy staff and equipment as quickly as necessary in the Buffalo area, and the thruway's statewide operations center (TSOC) is operational 24/7 to assist in storm monitoring.

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 here.

•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 can check parks.ny.gov or call their local park office for the latest updates regarding park hours, openings and closings.

•Department of Public Service: New York's utilities have approximately 6,800 workers available to engage in damage assessment, response and restoration efforts across New York. National Grid has 2,545 personnel available statewide, including approximately 900 external contract and mutual assistance resources from New York, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario, Canada. NYSEG (RG&E) has 1,860 personnel available statewide, including approximately 500 external contract and mutual assistance resources from New York and Ontario, Canada.

Dry-Ice and bottled water distribution locations in impacted regions were operated at:

√ Western region: JFK Community Center, 114 Hickory St., Buffalo

√ Finger Lakes region: City of Batavia Fire Department, 18 Evans St., Batavia

√ Western region: Murphy Training Center, 665 Brigham Road, Dunkirk

√ Central New York region: Oswego Fire Department (back parking lot), 35 East Seneca St.

√ North Country region: Jefferson County, Watertown CitiBus Garage, 544 Newell St., Watertown

Agency staff will track the utilities' work throughout the event and ensure utilities shift appropriate staffing to regions anticipated to be most impacted.

•New York State Police: State Police are prepared to deploy additional troopers as needed to affected areas. All State Police specialized vehicles are staged and ready for immediate response, and all emergency power and communications equipment has been tested.

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

Safety Tips

The governor’s office said to prepare for severe weather by doing the following:

√ 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 New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Safety tips web page.

National Grid

For the second consecutive weekend, National Grid has increased staffing, extended evening and overnight work shifts and is closely monitoring weather forecasts. Areas along the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are expected to experience the strongest wind gusts. More than 2,500 line, service, tree, damage assessment and public safety workers are ready to respond to damage that may occur.

To prepare for the storm, the company activated its comprehensive emergency response plan, including:

√ Calling in outside resources and mobilizing field and tree crews.

√ Pre-staging crews and materials in areas anticipated to be most severely impacted.

√ Proactively reaching out to elected, municipal and emergency management officials to keep them updated on our preparations and provide safety information.

√ Reaching out directly to customers through traditional and social media, email and texts and on its website to provide safety information and to urge them to be prepared.

√ Conducting outbound calls to life support and critical facility customers to ensure they are prepared.

The company also is encouraging customers to keep safety a priority with the following reminders:

Electricity & Generator Safety

√ If a power outage occurs, customers can notify National Grid online to expedite restoration.

√ Never touch downed power lines; always assume they are carrying live electricity. Downed lines should be immediately reported to National Grid at 1-800-867-5222 or by calling 911.

√ Generators used to supply power during an outage must be operated outdoors to prevent the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide. Before operating a generator, be sure to disconnect from National Grid’s system by shutting off the main breaker, located in the electric service panel. Failure to do this could endanger National Grid crews and community neighbors.

√ Customers who depend on electrically powered life support equipment, such as a respirator, should register as a life support customer by calling National Grid at 1-800-642- 4272. In a medical emergency, always dial 911.

√ Keep working flashlights and an extra supply of batteries in your home and be sure to charge all electronic devices before the storm.

√ Please use caution when driving near emergency responders and crews restoring power.

√ Be sure to check on elderly family members, neighbors and others who may need assistance during an outage.

√ Stay informed and connected. Customers with active electricity accounts who text “REG” to 64743 can have personalized alerts sent to them via text, email or phone call when National Grid detects an outage on their properties. Customers also can text “OUT” to 64743 to report an outage.

√ For real-time power outage information, online outage reporting, and in-depth storm safety information, visit National Grid’s “Outage Central” website. Customers who create an online profile also can sign up for email alerts. Visit www.nationalgridus.com.

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

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