Warming Temperatures and Freezing Rain Could Cause Flooding, Especially Ice Jam Flooding Near Rivers and Streams
Slippery Road Conditions Expected During Thursday Morning Commute
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today urged New Yorkers to take precautions against potential flooding in the wake of warmer temperatures and freezing rain expected across the state Thursday and Friday. Snow melt and rain will cause many rivers and streams to rise, potentially breaking ice layers causing ice jams and localized flooding with water covered roads, especially in low lying areas and urban and poor drainage areas.
Freezing rain which will transition into snow is expected through the weekend causing hazardous driving conditions, especially on untreated surfaces with isolated to scattered power outages possible. Flood watches have been issued for all of the Western New York except Allegany County through late Friday evening and more weather watches, warnings and advisories are expected to be issued by the National Weather Service later in the week. Sign up for NY Alerts at https://users.nyalert.gov to get immediate alerts on flood warnings and severe storms.
"This unusual change in temperature can be dangerous this time of year, as ice on roads and in waterways melt, and in order to ensure the safety of residents and travelers, I have directed state resources to be ready in advance for whatever Mother Nature brings our way," Governor Cuomo said. "I am urging all New Yorkers to stay tuned-in to local weather reports and prepare for potential flooding that may result from warm temperatures and freezing rain expected through the weekend."
State Agency Preparations
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is prepared to respond to requests for assistance with assets from its stockpiles, including 766 generators, 259 light towers, 1,283 pumps, 10 sandbaggers, more than 1,042,451 sandbags, more than 46,700 ready-to-eat meals, almost 70,000 bottles and 348,000 cans of water, over 9,000 cots, approximately 12,000 blankets and pillows, over 4,000 flashlights, 960 traffic barriers, 594 traffic barrels, and over 6,800 feet of aqua dam.
The Thruway Authority has 667 supervisors and operators ready to deploy 245 Large Snow Plows, 113 Medium Snow Plows, 11 Tow Plows and 54 Loaders across the state with more than 100,000 tons of road salt on hand. Variable Message Signs, Highway Advisory Radio and social media are utilized to alert motorists of winter weather conditions on the Thruway. In addition, Thruway Authority staff has been removing snow from emergency lanes and medians, as well as clearing drainage along its system to alleviate the potential of roadway flooding.
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 e-mails which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway here. 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.
Snowplows travel at about 35 miles per hour — which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit — in order to ensure that salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off the roadways. The safest place for motorists is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted.
Department of Transportation
The New York State Department of Transportation is ready to respond with more than 1,548 large plow/dump trucks, 201 medium plow/dump trucks, 328 loaders, 40 truck/loader mounted snow blowers, 50 tow plows, 20 graders and 14 pickup trucks with plows. DOT also has more than 316,000 tons of road salt on hand. DOT continues to monitor weather forecasts and stands ready to shift resources as necessary to any areas of the state anticipating significant weather conditions.
Motorists are reminded to check 511NY by calling 511, or visiting www.511ny.org before traveling. The free service allows users to check road conditions and transit information. Mobile users can download the free 511NY mobile app from the iTunes or Google Play stores. The app features Drive mode, which provides audible alerts along a chosen route while (a user is driving, warning them about incidents and construction. Users can set a destination prior to departing and receive information on up to three routes.
New York State Police
The New York State Police is prepared to add additional patrols to affected areas as needed, and all available 4X4 vehicles will be in use. All specialized resources, including aircraft and boats, will be staged and ready for deployment.
New York State Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation
In preparation for winter weather New York State Parks has alerted park police and park personnel to closely monitor weather updates and storm preparation efforts.New York State Parks has more than 950 emergency equipment resources on hand and ready for deployment. This includes light/medium duty plows, snowmobiles, 4x4 vehicles, ATV's and portable generators. Park patrons should monitor www.nysparks.com or call their local park office for the latest updates regarding park hours, openings and closings.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation
The State Department of Environmental Conservation is using FEMA flood plain maps and professional experience to identify flood prone areas, including creeks and streams, where snow melt and rain could cause damaging flooding. DEC will monitor stream level forecasts and flood gages on creeks, streams, and rivers to assess flooding risks and respond to potential flooding that would activate any of the 106 Flood Control Projects DEC maintains and operates across New York State. DEC is also surveying conditions and coordinating with sister state agencies to anticipate, alert and respond to any known ice jam conditions and associated flood risks. DEC is also monitoring wastewater treatment plants throughout the state, based on risk conditions and staff are ready to respond to any emergencies caused by flooding.
The State Department of Agriculture and Markets
The State Department of Agriculture and Markets, DEC and the Cornell Pro-DAIRY program are sending alerts to farmers concerning the need to refrain from manure spreading in anticipation of snow melt and precipitation conditions. This alert protocol includes information on best practices to reduce the risk of manure being transmitted to waters during high runoff conditions, including monitoring requirements to ensure nutrient levels in open waste storage do not exceed permitted capacity and can accommodate increased storm water flow. DEC and DAM staff are available to provide information to assist farmers with implementation of these measures.
In the Event of an Oil Spill
Residents affected by a flood that causes an oil spill in or near their homes should contact the DEC Spill Hotline immediately at 1-800-457-7362 to report the spill. If residents suspect that spilled oil is mixing with water flooding their homes, they are advised not to pump the water out into the yard. The oil may spread and contaminate other areas, including nearby wells, waterbodies, and homes.
If a layer of oil is on water in a basement, residents can minimize the amount of oil spread on walls and floors and the amount of other damage to property by removing the oil before pumping the water out.
- For an oil film, absorbent pads may be sufficient to collect the oil.
- For a thicker layer of oil, a vacuum truck may be necessary to skim the oil off the water.
Oil spills can also contaminate indoor air. The State Department of Health is available to answer questions at 518-402-7810 or 800-458-1158. After hours and on weekends, call 1-866-881-2809. Oil-contaminated debris or material contaminated with other petroleum products should be segregated and stored in a well-ventilated area. If stored outdoors, piles should be covered to keep precipitation from contaminating nearby soil and water. Any chemical or oil spills, such as from oil home heating tanks, must be reported to DEC through the Spill Hotline. For more information on steps to minimize the damage and finish the cleanup quickly, visit www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/air/oil_spill_flood.htm.
Below are flood preparation safety tips:
- 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 - as well as potentially photo and video documentation -- 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
- Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded
- Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency water-proofing
- Check on your insurance coverage. Homeowners' insurance policies generally do not cover flood damages. Only flood insurance can protect your home against flood damages. You can purchase flood insurance whether or not you live in a mapped flood zone
For a list of complete list of weather terms and preparation ideas before during and after a flood, visit the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/flood/floodprepare.cfm.
Plan Ahead When Traveling
Governor Cuomo also offered the following safety tips to prepare for winter travel:
Preparing your vehicle now will help ensure your vehicle is in good working order when you need it most. Have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle:
- Wipers and windshield washer fluid
- Ignition system
- Exhaust system
- Flashing hazard lights
- Oil level
- Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. You may also want to carry a set of tire chains in your vehicle for heavy snow condition.
- Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal and maintain at least a half tank of gas throughout the winter season.
- Finally, plan long trips carefully. Listen to the local media report or call law enforcement agencies for the latest road conditions.
The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents.
- Give yourself extra time to arrive at your destination. Make sure your car is stocked with emergency items 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.
- 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.
As you drive:
- Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.
- Keep your vehicle clear of ice and snow - good vision is key to good driving.
- Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars.
- Remember that snowdrifts can hide smaller children.