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Hochul, AAA update New Yorkers on winter storm impacts & response


Fri, Feb 4th 2022 03:55 pm

Winter weather impacting most of state with heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain

√ Travel advisories and restrictions implemented across state highways

√ Up to foot or more of snow in locations in Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley & North Country

Earlier this afternoon, Gov. Kathy Hochul  provided an update to New Yorkers on statewide winter storm impacts and state agency response efforts as a storm system continues to impact most of the state with heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain, knocking out power to more than 52,000 customers. Areas in the upper Mid-Hudson and the lower Capital District regions received up to a half inch of sleet and freezing rain overnight, as well as a mix of snow. Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley and the North Country received up to a foot or more of snow, with several additional inches of snow forecast through this afternoon.

"New Yorkers are waking up this morning to a lot of snow or a messy mixture of sleet and freezing rain that has already made travel treacherous and brought down tree limbs and power lines," Hochul said. "I urge New Yorkers to stay vigilant and avoid all travel, especially in areas where the mix of sleet and freezing rain is making roadways extremely dangerous. We will continue to monitor conditions, deploy assets as necessary and provide support to local governments if needed."

In coordination with the New York State Police and Thruway Authority, the Department of Transportation implemented a 45-mph advisory speed limit and a "right lane only" restriction for commercial trucks on the all or portions of the following corridors: I-84 from the Connecticut to Pennsylvania state lines; Route 17 east of Binghamton; I-88; and I-81 south of Syracuse. Speed reductions are also in effect for many areas along the thruway system.

Hochul urged New Yorkers to practice extra caution, limit travel, and check on neighbors and friends to ensure their safety.

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "We are seeing a mix of sleet, freezing rain and snow that makes it difficult to travel and especially difficult to de-ice. New Yorkers should take frequent breaks if removing snow and ice today and use extra caution if traveling. Take it slow, give yourself extra time to reach your destination, and be on alert for changing road conditions and snow plows working to clear roadways."

The weather system will continue to push across the state this afternoon, and areas south and east of the Capital Region are forecast to receive a wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain. Western New York, the Finger Lakes, Central New York, the North Country and parts of the Mohawk Valley are expected to receive several inches of snow. Across downstate regions, rain is expected to change to a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain this afternoon before tapering off in the evening. Dangerous, icy travel conditions are likely to impact the evening commute for much of the lower Mid-Hudson, New York City and Long Island regions tonight.

Steady snow will end across the state late Friday afternoon, with some lake-effect impacts in Western New York and the North Country through this evening – and wind gusts up to 30 mph at times causing blowing and drifting snow along the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shorelines. These areas will also see the return of bitter cold conditions and sub-zero wind chills today through this weekend. 

Multiple weather warnings and watches issued by the National Weather Service remain in effect through this evening for locations throughout the state. For a complete listing of weather advisories, visit the National Weather Service website.

Agency Preparations

•Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ emergency operations center is activated and closely monitoring weather and travel conditions, coordinating state agency response operations, and communicating with local governments during the event. The state's 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 is responding with the following assets:

1,748 large- and medium-duty plow trucks

328 large loaders

51 tow plows

39 snowblowers

23 pickup trucks with a plow

18 graders

Fifty-six generators were deployed to areas expected to experience freezing rain and are staged in anticipation of responding to any dark signals. Twenty-one sawyer crews from the Department of Environmental Conservation and Parks are staged and on-call to assist DOT tree removal operations.

Tow services are being utilized at the following locations: U.S. 20 (Madison), I-81 (Onondaga), U.S. 20 (Onondaga), I-390 (Steuben), I-86 (Chemung), I-84 (Orange), I-684 (Putnam), I-81 (Broome), I-88 (Broome), NY 17 (Broome), and NY 17 (Sullivan). The need for additional tow services will be reevaluated as the event develops.

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

•Thruway Authority is actively engaged in snow and ice operations, with 677 operators and supervisors available statewide, along with the following assets:

356 large- and medium-duty plow trucks

11 tow plows

68 loaders

More than 119,000 tons of salt on hand

Variable message signs and social media are utilized to alert motorists of winter 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, here.

•Department of 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 impacted by severe weather.

All available assets, including sawyers, are positioned to assist with any emergency response.

DEC is advising backcountry users to be aware of and prepared for avalanche conditions due to weather that could increase the risk of avalanches on slides or steep, open terrain. More information is available here.

DEC reminds those responsible for the large-scale removal and disposal of snow to follow best management practices to help reduce the potential for pollutants like salt, sand, oils, trash and other debris in snow from affecting water quality. More information is available here.

•Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: 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 will be closely monitoring conditions and will be prepared to deploy additional troopers as needed. All State Police four-wheel drive and specialized vehicles, including snowmobiles and utility terrain vehicles, are staged and ready for immediate response.

•New York Power Authority / Canal Corp. staff are performing 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

Per Hochul’s team:

•Winter Travel

The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms are transportation-related crashes. Before getting behind the wheel, make sure your vehicle is clear of ice and snow; good vision is key to good driving. Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars. Be extra alert and remember that snowdrifts can hide smaller children. Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.

It is important for motorists on all roads to note that snowplows travel at speeds up to 35 mph – which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit – to ensure that 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 also keep in mind that snowplow drivers have limited lines of sight, and the size and weight of snowplows can make it very difficult to maneuver and stop quickly. Snowblowing 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 driving include:

√ When winter storms strike, do not drive unless necessary.

√ Use caution on bridges as ice can form quicker than on roads.

√ Wet leaves on roadways can cause slippery conditions, making it important to drive at slower speeds when approaching patches of them.

√ Make sure your car is stocked with blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, set of tire chains, battery booster cables, quick-energy foods and brightly colored cloth to use as a distress flag.

√ Keep your gas tank full to prevent gasoline freeze-up.

√ If you have a cell phone or two-way radio available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling. If you should become stranded, you will be able to call for help, advising rescuers of your location.

√ Make sure someone knows your travel plans.

√ While driving, keep vehicles clear of ice and snow.

√ Plan stops and keep distance between cars. Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.

Power Outage

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 webpage.

AAA on Front Lines

AAA of Western and Central New York provided its own update:

By 3 p.m. today, we reached the typical call volume for an average February day, and there’s still a long way to go. Well over 1,000 calls have come in since the last email was sent out at 9:45 a.m. this morning.

Winch calls, where cars are stuck and need to be extricated/pulled out of the snow, remain the top request, accounting for about 40% of calls across the region (Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse) as of 3 p.m. On an average February day, winch calls account for 11% of call volume.

We do have extra crews on to assist. For the fastest service, motorists in need should use the AAA mobile app or request service online at AAA.com. AAA crews are prioritizing calls to assist stranded motorists first. The patience of those safe at home is appreciated in these conditions.

Cold temperatures are forecasted for this weekend, so motorists should drive their cars this weekend to ensure that batteries are working properly – the average life span of a battery in this region is three to five years. Driving the vehicle gets juice to the battery to keep it operational. You don’t want to find a dead battery on Monday morning, when call volume is typically high as many people attempt to return to work!

AAA urges motorists to use caution while driving on snow covered, icy roads. Remember, go slow on ice and snow!

For those who are traveling, many flights are delayed or canceled today, which could lead into weekend delays. Travelers should check their flight status online before heading to the airport.

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