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State agencies prepare emergency response assets ahead of incoming weather system expected to impact state Thursday through holiday weekend


Wed, Dec 21st 2022 05:35 pm

Heavy rain, snow, high winds, flash freezing, flooding and power outages all possible this week, as winter storm moves into New York

√ Governor urges New Yorkers preparing to travel this week to plan ahead and consider leaving earlier than scheduled to avoid hazardous travel conditions  

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday directed state agencies to prepare emergency response assets in advance of significant winter weather system expected to create multiple hazards statewide beginning Thursday and continuing through Saturday. Heavy rain, snow, high winds, flash freezing, and flooding are possible for several regions across the state throughout the holiday weekend. In addition, lake-effect snow is expected to impact areas along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario beginning Friday night and continuing into Monday, with total snow accumulations forecast to reach 12 inches or more.

Beginning Thursday, rain and snow showers are forecast for most of the state, with rainfall amounts of up to 3 inches possible in some places by Friday afternoon. Minor to moderate flooding is possible due to rain and snowmelt, and brief wintry mixes could cause slick travel into early Friday morning.

Starting Friday and continuing into Saturday morning, much of the state is expected to see high winds between 40-50 mph and localized gusts up to 70 mph. On Friday afternoon and evening, temperatures are forecast to drop significantly, and flash freezing could cause icy road conditions during the Friday evening commute and travel on Saturday.

In addition, beginning Friday night and continuing through Monday, lake-effect snow will impact areas off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and strong winds are expected to cause blowing and drifting snow with near zero visibility and localized blizzard conditions. Below-normal, freezing temperatures with low wind chills are expected to persist through Monday for upstate regions.

Hochul urged New Yorkers to take all necessary precautions, if traveling this week, and plan ahead for potential weather impacts.

"New Yorkers preparing to travel this week to see loved ones over the holiday weekend should plan ahead and leave early, if possible, as we expect this weather system to create hazardous travel conditions throughout the state starting Friday," she said. "Our state agencies are well coordinated for this response, and we are preparing assets and personnel for deployments to impacted regions, if necessary."

Wind advisories and high wind watches are in effect beginning Thursday for parts of Central New York, Mohawk Valley and the North Country, with maximum wind gusts up to 70 mph expected at times. Damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines, and widespread power outages are possible. Travel could be difficult in these areas.

Winter storm watches are in effect for Western New York, Finger Lakes and North Country regions from Friday through Monday evening.

Coastal flood watches are in effect for all of New York City, Long Island and Westchester County beginning Friday and continuing until Saturday night, with 1 to 3 feet of water inundation above ground level possible in areas near the waterfront and shoreline.

Lakeshore flood watches are also in effect Friday morning for various counties in Western New York and the North Country due to potential lakeshore flooding, especially in bays, inlets and harbors.

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

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "We are expecting a major winter storm from Thursday through Saturday statewide. I have two messages for New Yorkers: No. 1, avoid travel on Friday and Saturday. So, if you need to travel this weekend, do your best to leave on Thursday and stay through at least Sunday. No. 2, we expect to see high winds – and while we have brought in thousands of additional utility workers, we may experience power outages paired with extremely low temperatures. Please be prepared and check on family and vulnerable neighbors."

Agency Preparations

•The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) is closely monitoring the forecast, coordinating state agency response operations, and contacting local governments ahead of weather impacts to ensure preparedness. The Office of Emergency Management is working with Erie County to prestage chainsaws and generators, and deploying sandbags to the U.S. Coast Guard in Buffalo to protect against potential lakeshore flooding. The Office of Fire Prevention and Control has equipment and personnel available to assist with mutual aid requests.

Across the state's 10 stockpiles, DHSES has the following deployable items to support storm-related needs:

  • 1,487 generators
  • 985 pumps
  • 528 chainsaws
  • 250 light towers
  • Cots, pillows, blankets, water and MREs

•Department of Public Service: In preparation for this week's statewide winter weather event, New York utilities will have approximately 7,700 workers available statewide to engage in damage assessment, wire guarding, response, repair, and restoration efforts. This includes nearly 2,200 additional external workers available to respond to the event from the following utilities:

  • 800 National Grid
  • 800 Con Edison
  • 330 NYSEG/RG&E
  • 150 Orange & Rockland
  • 75 Central Hudson

DPS staff will track utilities' response, repair and restoration work throughout the event and ensure utilities shift appropriate resources to regions that experience the greatest impact.

•The State Department of Transportation is monitoring weather conditions and is prepared to respond with 3,450 supervisors and operators. All affected residency locations will be staffed for 24/7 operation throughout the duration of the event. Staff can be configured into any type of response crew that is needed, such as snow and ice, flood, chipper, load and haul, cut and toss, traffic signal, etc. All available equipment is ready to deploy.

Statewide equipment numbers are as follows:

  • 1,731 large and medium-duty plow trucks
  • 51 tow plows
  • 38 snowblowers
  • 342 loaders
  • 13 tree crew bucket trucks
  • 78 chippers
  • 34 traffic signal trucks
  • 19 graders
  • 74 excavators

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

•Thruway Authority personnel are closely monitoring the forecast for the upcoming storm and are ready to respond with 678 operators and supervisors available. Statewide equipment numbers and resources are listed below:

√ 352 large and medium-duty plow trucks

√ 10 tow plows

√ 66 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 information, live traffic cameras, and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert emails, which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway.

•The New York State Police will monitor conditions and assign extra patrols to areas that are significantly impacted by the storm. All four-wheel drive and specialty vehicles are in service, including utility task vehicles and snowmobiles.

•Department of Environmental Conservation 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. DEC is coordinating resource deployment with agency partners, and all available assets are positioned to assist with any emergency response.

Hochul’s team said, “DEC is advising backcountry users to be aware of and prepared for winter conditions. Winter hiking and skiing safety and preparedness are extremely important no matter your physical ability or destination. Properly preparing for winter conditions is essential for a more enjoyable and safer experience. During and immediately following periods of heavy snowfall, avoid open, exposed areas like bare summits, and use extreme caution when traveling on or near open slopes.”

Additional information is available at https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/112826.html.

DEC reminds those responsible for the large-scale removal and disposal of snow to follow best management practices to help prevent flooding and reduce the potential for pollutants like salt, sand, oils, trash and other debris in snow from affecting water quality. Disposal of snow in local creeks and streams can create ice dams, which may cause flooding in nearby areas. Public and private snow removal operators should be aware of these safety issues during and after the storm.

Additional information is available at https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/water_pdf/togs5111new.pdf.

•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.

•The New York Power Authority and the 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.

•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 are 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, including RidePATH, which provides real-time updates and alerts for PATH service.

•The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is closely monitoring weather conditions to ensure safe, reliable service. MTA employees will be poised to respond to any weather-related issues and remove any downed trees that may fall across tracks. Customers are encouraged to check new.mta.info for the latest service updates, and to use caution while navigating the system. Customers should also sign up for real-time service alerts via text or email. These alerts are also available via the MTA's apps: MYmta and TrainTime.

Safety Tips – Winter Travel Safety

Hochul’s team offered the following:

The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents. Before getting behind the wheel, review these safety tips:

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

√ Make sure that your vehicle is clear of ice and snow; good vision is key to good driving.

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

√ Be extra alert and remember that snowdrifts can hide smaller children.

√ Make sure your car is stocked with survival gear like 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.

√ If you have a cell phone or other communications device such as a two-way radio available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling.

Cold Weather Safety

√ Be aware of wind chill – wind in combination with the actual temperature – that can cause an increase of heat loss to the human body.

√ Dress appropriately and avoid staying in the cold too long.

√ Wear a hat and gloves when appropriate with layers of clothing. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body to the cold.

√ Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water, but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Stay active to maintain body heat.

√ Take frequent breaks from the cold.

√ If signals of hypothermia or frostbite appear, get out of the cold, slowly warm the individual and seek medical assistance: (Frostbite: Symptoms include loss of feeling, a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, ears and nose. Hypothermia:  Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling and drowsiness).

Heavy Exertion

Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, increases the risk of a heart attack. Follow these tips to stay safe after the storm:

√ Stay warm, dress warm and slow down when working outdoors.

√ Take frequent rests to avoid over-exertion

√ If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your jaw radiating down your arm – stop and seek help immediately.

Power Outages

Winter storms can cause power outages. Review these safety tips before the lights go out so you know what to do in an emergency:

√ Call your utility provider to notify them of the outage.

√ Avoid all downed power lines and report them to your utility provider for repair; assume all downed lines have live electricity.

√ Use only flashlights for emergency lighting – candles pose the risk of fire.

√ Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors shut to keep food from spoiling.  When in doubt, throw it out!

√ Do not use a charcoal grill or generator indoors, and do not use a gas stove for heat – they could give off harmful levels of carbon monoxide.

√ Turn off major appliances to prevent damage from a possible surge when the power comes back on – keep one light turned on so you know when power returns.

Home Heating

Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fire deaths. Keep loved ones safe by following these important steps:

√ Keep all combustibles at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.

√ Always plug appliances including space heaters directly into a receptacle. Never plug appliances into a power strip or extension cord.

√ Make sure there is a working smoke alarm in each bedroom, outside sleeping areas and on every level of your home.

For all non-emergency service needs before, during or after a storm, call 211 or visit 211nys.org. For more safety tips, visit the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services safety tips website at www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/index.cfm.

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