January 29, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Bans Tractor Trailers and Buses from Several Upstate Highways as Snow and Frigid Temperatures Sweep Across the State

Governor Cuomo Bans Tractor Trailers and Buses from Several Upstate Highways as Snow and Frigid Temperatures Sweep Across the State

Most Areas of Upstate New York Will Receive Several Inches of Snow by Wednesday; Areas in Persistent Lake Effect Regions May Experience Several Feet of Snow through Friday Morning

Wind Chills as Low as 30 Degrees Below Zero Will Result in Life-Threatening Conditions

Hazardous Travel Conditions Expected Due to Blowing Snow and Freezing Temperatures

State Emergency Operations Center Activated to Level 3

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that tractor trailers and commercial buses will be banned from certain highways in Western New beginning at 8 p.m. tonight and on portions of the Interstate 81 corridor beginning Wednesday at noon as heavy snows and frigid temperatures are expected to impact several parts of the state beginning this afternoon and extending into Wednesday morning. Most areas in the path of the storm will see 6 to 8 inches of snow, with the exception of areas that typically experience lake effect snow, including southern Erie County, the Chautauqua Ridge in Western New York, and the Tug Hill Plateau in Northern New York that could see significantly higher amounts of snow through Friday morning.

As the weather system winds down, a polar vortex moving in from the north will deliver dangerously cold wind chills late Tuesday night and continue through Thursday. Travel will be difficult across the state as hazardous weather conditions threaten to impact the morning and evening commutes. Blowing snow and freezing temperatures will result in near-blizzard conditions. New Yorkers should travel only if necessary.

Governor Cuomo has directed a Level 3 activation of the State Emergency Operations Center in order to prepare for and assist with any potential emergency response activities.

"With these weather systems moving across the state, I urge all New Yorkers to take necessary precautions and prepare for extreme temperatures expected over the next few days," Governor Cuomo said. "Drivers should remain off the roads unless absolutely necessary, and residents should limit their time outdoors for the duration of these dangerous wind chills. State agencies are prepared to assist local communities and emergency officials as needed."

Beginning at 8 p.m. tonight, tractor trailers and commercial buses will be banned from the New York State Thruway from Exit 46 (Rochester I-390) to the Pennsylvania border as well as Interstate 190, Interstate 290, State Route 400, U.S. Route 219 from Peters Road to Interstate 90; and State Route 5 from State Route 179 to I-190.

Beginning at noon Wednesday, tractor trailers and commercial buses will be banned on Interstate 81 from the Canadian Border to State Route 104.

The bans will last for the duration of the storm.

The Capital Region, Central New York, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier regions are forecast to receive anywhere from a couple of inches to over six feet of snow through Wednesday morning. Lake effect snow will develop over the Buffalo Metro and Northtowns late Tuesday afternoon, and then drift south on Wednesday. Areas north of the Chautauqua Ridge in Western New York and parts of the Tug Hill Plateau in the North Country New York could see up to two feet or more of lake effect snow through Thursday.

Starting Tuesday night, a blast of Arctic air will bring dangerously freezing cold temperatures to the state. Daytime temperatures will likely drop down to single digits or teens, with overnight lows several degrees below zero in many areas. Combined with strong wind gusts, the cold temperatures will produce life-threatening wind chills as low as 30 degrees below zero in some places.

New Yorkers should pay close attention to their local weather reports to stay updated with the latest information. The National Weather Service has issued flash flood, and winter weather, winter storm and wind chill warnings, watches and advisories for several different areas of the state. For a complete listing of weather watches, warnings, advisories and latest forecasts, visit your local National Weather Service website.

Agency Preparations

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services will coordinate with state agencies and local governments to ensure resources from the State's ten regional stockpiles are available for deployment throughout the weather event. Staff at the State EOC and regional personnel are prepared to respond to any issues as necessary.

Department of Transportation

The State Department of Transportation is ready to respond with 1598 large plow trucks, which include 98 reserve trucks. The Department has 51 tow plows, 326 large loaders, 39 snow blowers, 19 graders, 203 medium duty and pickup trucks with plows, 34 tractor trailers, and more than 369,424 tons of salt on hand. This equipment, as well as nearly 3,900 operators and supervisors, will be deployed as necessary in advance of the winter storms to help keep roads safe.

In addition, 35 large plow trucks, two snow blowers, 70 operators, six equipment operator instructors, 10 supervisors, eight mechanics, two mechanic supervisors and two Incident Command System support staff have been deployed from their home regions to other areas as follows:

  • Mohawk Valley: The region is receiving five large plow trucks, 10 operators and two supervisors from Long Island.
  • Central New York: The region is receiving five large plow trucks, 10 operators, two mechanics and two supervisors from the Southern Tier; two mechanics from the Mid-Hudson Region; four mechanics and one supervisor from Long Island; and one from supervisor from the Capital Region.
  • Western New York: The region is receiving 11 large plow trucks, 22 operators and one supervisor from the Finger Lakes; four large plow trucks, eight operators and one supervisor from the Southern Tier; one snow blower from the Mid-Hudson Region; one equipment operator instructor from the Finger Lakes; one equipment operator instructor from the Southern Tier; and one ICS support staff member from the Capital Region.
  • North Country: The region is receiving 10 large plow trucks, 20 operators, one snow blower and four supervisors from Long Island; and one ICS support staff member from the Capital Region.
  • Mid-Hudson Valley: The region is receiving two equipment operator instructors from Long Island and two equipment operator instructors from the Southern Tier.

Motorists are reminded to check 511NY before traveling at or by downloading the mobile app. The free service allows users to check road conditions and features a winter travel advisory system with real-time travel reports and a color-coded map indicating which state roads are clear, wet or snow covered. The system provides motorists with a helpful resource to determine if travel is advisable.

The Governor also recently announced that the State Department of Transportation launched a new public education campaign to promote safe driving in winter conditions. A new website, videos and social media campaign will encourage motorists to drive safely in snow and ice conditions, and urge drivers to give snow plows enough space to operate safely.

Thruway Authority

The Thruway Authority has 669 supervisors and operators ready to deploy 244 large snow plows, 126 medium snow plows, 11 tow plows and 58 loaders across the state with more than 107,000 tons of road salt on hand. The Buffalo Division has received an additional six large snow plows, one tow plow, one snow blower and one large loader to assist in snow operations. Variable Message Signs, Highway Advisory Radio 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 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. 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.

Department of Public Service

The Department of Public Service is in contact with utility senior executives to ensure that the utilities are prepared for inclement weather, and it will be closely monitoring utility storm-preparation efforts to ensure that utilities stand ready to minimize outages and speed outage restorations. Electric and gas utilities, as well as telecommunication service providers, such as Verizon, are closely watching as the storm develops and prepared to bring on additional personnel to minimize service disruptions, if they occur.

Utilities are prepared to respond 24 hours a day to utility service disruptions and are mandated to implement their emergency response plans, when needed, which includes performing proper messaging to alert customers to the expected frigid temperatures as well contacting customers on life-support equipment and other critical customers. Department staff will continue to monitor the utilities' efforts during the storm event.

Utilities can provide customers with storm and safety information or customers can call the Department's Call Center for information. The PSC Help Line can be reached by calling 1-800-342-3377.

New York State Police

The New York State Police are increasing patrols by 20 percent in the affected areas and stand ready to deploy additional patrols during the storm as needed. All four-wheel drive vehicles will be deployed and all specialty vehicles, including snowmobiles and Utility Task Vehicles, are staged and ready for deployment.

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance

With the storm coming and severely cold temperatures expected over the next several days, a Code Blue is likely to be in effect throughout much of the state. When air temperatures are at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, including wind-chill, local social services districts must take necessary steps to ensure homeless individuals have access to shelter, and that shelter hours are extended, under the state's Code Blue regulation.

Department of Environmental Conservation

Department of Environmental Conservation Police Officers, Forest Rangers, Emergency Management staff, and regional staff are on alert, monitoring the developing situation, and actively patrolling areas likely to be impacted by the storm. All available assets, including snowmobiles and utility vehicles, are ready to assist with any emergency response.

New York Power Authority/Canal Corporation

The New York Power Authority continues to monitor conditions and remains in constant contact with emergency management officials. NYPA is working with Niagara River Control and Ontario Power Generation to meet power demands and mitigate potential ice jams. Ice breakers have been working around the clock near intakes for NYPA's Niagara Power Project to keep water flowing to the hydroelectric facility, New York's largest power plant.

The New York State Canal Corporation, a subsidiary of NYPA, continues to communicate with hydropower entities along the state Canal System regarding changes in releases and conditions as well as developing hazards. The Canal Corporation has taken pre-emptive actions statewide to mitigate potential flood impacts throughout the system and staff is closely monitoring known ice jam locations including known locations along the Mohawk River.

The Canal Corporation has a contractor on standby to send to Erie Canal Locks 8-10 in Schenectady and Montgomery counties to remove accumulated ice jams adjacent to the locks if they were to occur.

Safe travel

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 is important to drive at slower speeds when approaching patches of them.
  • If you must travel, 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. If you should become stranded, you will be able to call for help, advising rescuers of your location.

The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents. Before getting behind the wheel, make sure that 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 m.p.h., 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. 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 to drive is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted.

Safety in extreme cold

Dress for the season

  • Wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air between the layers acts as an insulator. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
  • Always wear a hat or cap on your head since half of your body heat could be lost through an uncovered head.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.


Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, especially in children and the elderly. Watch for these symptoms:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Uncontrollable shivering followed by a sudden lack of shivering

If a person's body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, get emergency medical assistance immediately. Remove wet clothing, wrap the victim in warm blankets and give warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquids until help arrives.


People working or playing outdoors during the winter can develop frostbite and not even know it. There is no pain associated with the early stages of frostbite, so learn to watch for these danger signs:

  • First, the skin may feel numb and become flushed. Then it turns white or grayish-yellow. Frostbitten skin feels cold to the touch.
  • If frostbite is suspected, move the victim to a warm area. Cover the affected area with something warm and dry. Never rub it!
  • Then get to a doctor or hospital as quickly as possible.


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