January 12, 2016
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Activates State Emergency Operations Center for Lake Effect Snow

Governor Cuomo Activates State Emergency Operations Center for Lake Effect Snow

White out conditions forecast this evening and tomorrow morning in Western and Central New York

Governor urges motorists in affected areas to use caution

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today activated the New York State’s Emergency Operations Center as bands of heavy, lake effect snow bring hazardous travel conditions and high winds to Western and Central New York. Representatives from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Emergency Management, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Thruway, State Police, Public Service Commission and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs have been directed to report to the Emergency Operations Center for this activation.

“As heavy snow fall continues to hit the Western and Central New York, the state will be taking all necessary efforts to support our local partners and keep our residents safe,” said Governor Cuomo. “Travel in these areas will be difficult and dangerous as weather conditions worsen, and I encourage everyone who must travel to plan ahead and drive carefully.”

The New York State Department of Transportation has 1,700 operators and supervisors in impacted regions and are ready to respond with 652 large plow/dump trucks, 72 medium plow/dump trucks, 150 loaders, 32 truck/loader mounted snow blowers, 32 tow plows, 9 pickup trucks with plows and additional resources as necessary. The Department of Transportation has more than 202,000 tons of road salt on hand.

The New York State Thruway Authority has shifted additional resources to Central and Western NY including extra personnel and equipment from the Albany and New York Divisions. The Thruway has a total of 390 plow operators and supervisors managing winter weather in Syracuse and Buffalo regions, along with 210 large and medium plow trucks, 32 front-end loaders, 17 large snow blowers and 72,000 tons of salt. These numbers also include supplemental NYSDOT resources assisting on the Thruway.

At noon today, the Thruway Authority announced a restriction on long tandem tractor trailers along I-90 in both directions from exit 31 (Utica – NY Routes 8 & 12 – I-790) to exit 42 (Geneva – Lyons – NY Route 14). This restriction is in effect from 7 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 12 through 12 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 13. All tandems should utilize the Thruway’s tandem parking areas to break up tandem combinations prior to reaching the restricted section of I-90.

Snowplows travel at speeds up to 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. 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 sight distances, and the size and weight of snowplows make it very difficult to maneuver and stop quickly. Snow blowing 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 is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted.

The New York State Department of Transportation provides a travel advisory system that features real-time travel reports and can be accessed by dialing 511, online at www.511ny.org, or via a downloadable smart phone app. The web site features map indicating which state roads are snow covered, ice covered, wet, dry, or closed to help travelers determine if travel is advisable. The system provides real-time snow and ice conditions for interstates and other heavily traveled roads, as reported by snowplow operators. Motorists can sign up for TRANSAlert emails regarding Thruway traffic conditions here. Thruway travelers are encouraged to visit www.Thruway.ny.gov for real-time traffic updates. To see an interactive map including Google traffic conditions for the Thruway and other roadways in New York State and beyond, please click here.

Some of the most important tips for safe winter driving include:

  • Never follow a snowplow too closely or attempt to pass one. Remember that the highway ahead of the plow is usually snow-covered;
  • Adjust speed for road conditions and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles;
  • Schedule extra time for winter travel and be patient during ice and snow removal operations;
  • Assume that bridge surfaces are slippery, as they freeze more quickly than road surfaces;
  • Be wary of black ice, which can be difficult to see but makes conditions slippery when pavement temperatures are below freezing;
  • Have a cell phone handy, if possible, but do not text while driving; distracted driving is illegal and becomes even more dangerous during storm events;
  • Never venture from your vehicle if snowbound;
  • Equip your car with emergency supplies including sand, shovel, flares, booster cables, rope, ice scraper, portable radio, flashlight, blankets and extra warm clothes;
  • Inform a responsible person of your destination, intended route, and estimated time of arrival; and
  • Keep calm and do not panic in case of a vehicle breakdown, accident, or if you become snowbound.

Motorists should also include the following emergency items in their vehicles:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Charged cell phone and automobile charger
  • Basic first-aid kit
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Extra clothes, including rain gear, boots, mittens, and socks
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Shovel
  • Sand, road salt and/or cat litter for traction
  • Tire chains or traction mats
  • Basic tool kit, including pliers, wrench, and screwdriver
  • Tow rope
  • Battery jumper cables
  • Road flares/reflectors
  • Brightly colored cloth (to use as a flag)
  • Road maps

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services also recommends that residents should prepare their homes and families for severe winter weather. This includes stocking up on supplies in the event a winter storm or power outage prevents you from leaving your home. Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs to see if they are in need of assistance. Additional safety tips can be found here.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

Albany Press Office: 518.474.8418

NYC Press Office: 212.681.4640