Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today declared a state of emergency as a major winter storm has moved from the Midwest into Western New York and the Tug Hill Plateau region of the State. The State of Emergency covers the following counties: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Monroe, Oneida, Orleans, Oswego, Wayne and Wyoming. Click here to listen to audio from the Governors winter storm briefing conference call.
Earlier today the Governor announced that parts of the New York State Thruway in Western New York will be closed due to extreme winter weather conditions and he directed the State Emergency Operations Center to open at 8PM tonight based on the forecasted winter weather conditions in Buffalo and Western New York.
These actions were taken due to a severe winter weather event that is forecast to include 36 inches of snow in the coming day-and-a-half, lake effect snows in some areas up to four inches per hour, wind gusts up to 40 mph and wind chill temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero. The Thruway in this area will be reopened when conditions allow.
A state of emergency mobilizes resources to local governments that otherwise are restricted to state use only and allows the Governor to suspend laws and regulations that would impede rapid response.
The Governor urged Western New Yorkers and residents in the Tug Hill Plateau region to avoid traveling and stay inside their homes until the worst of the storm has passed.
As this new winter storm develops, bringing heavy snow and high winds, I strongly urge all citizens in these regions to exercise caution, avoid travel, and stay indoors, Governor Cuomo said. To ensure an effective and rapid response to this winter storm, I am declaring a state of emergency, so resources can get to communities where they are needed as quickly as possible.
Steps taken to ensure readiness include:
Roads and Bridges
The following actions will allow plow operations on critical roadways to be maintained overnight while ensuring driver safety:
The Thruway between Exit 55 (Route 219/Lackawanna/Springville/Orchard Park/West Seneca) and Exit 61 (Shortman Road, Ripley) closed to commercial vehicles at 3PM today. Starting at 8PM, all vehicles traveling westbound on the Thruway will be detoured off the roadway at Exit 50 (I-290 west), and all eastbound traffic will be detoured off at Exit 61 (Shortman Road, Ripley).
Route 400 from the Thruway in West Seneca to Route 16 in Aurora and Route 219 from Milestrip Road to Peters Road will be closed to all traffic tonight at 8:00 PM.
Interstate 81, between Exits 31-45 will be closed to all traffic tonight at 8:00 PM.
The State has 245 plows (643 operators) already activated in the region, with an additional 426 plows (870 operators) being deployed to Western New York from the Southern Tier, Central New York, the Capital Region and the Hudson Valley.
In addition, 26 truck mounted snow blowers have been deployed.
The Thruway Authority has nearly 25,000 tons of road salt on-hand in the Buffalo area, along with a significant quantity of liquid magnesium chloride, which is also used to treat roadways and prevent icy conditions. The Department of Transportation has 48,000 tons of salt on-hand in Western New York.
All Thruway and New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) maintenance headquarters will be fully staffed around the clock for the duration of the storm.
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has extended its call center helpline hours beginning today, January 6 until 7:30 PM, and continuing from 7:30PAM to 7:30PM, Tuesday, January 7, and Wednesday, January 8 from 7:30AM to 7:30PM, if needed, to assist consumers in storm preparation and response efforts. The helpline number is 1-800-342-3377.
PSC staff will continue to monitor the utilities efforts throughout the storm and during the restoration period.
The electric utilities are prepared to respond to power disruptions throughout the event. In total, approximately 3,800 field workers are available to respond statewide. Additional crews are also available through mutual assistance, if needed.
The Division of Military and Naval Affairs is mobilizing more than 300 New York Army and Air National Guard citizen Soldiers and Airmen in western and central New York to assist local authorities if requested.
The Soldiers and Airmen will include four National Guard Immediate Response Forces each with 20 personnel and five four-wheel drive vehiclesand an engineer immediate response force with of personnel with dump trucks and front-end loaders to help move snow. A 100-Soldier force with vehicles from the 2nd Battalion 101st Cavalry in Buffalo will also be standing by to provide assistance if required.
The Air Guard teams will come from the 107th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base.
Additional Soldiers will provide administrative and logistical support to these teams. Another 100 soldiers who can provide transportation support to move winter storm response supplies will also be on call.
All specialty vehicles in the State Polices fleet including ATV's, snowmobiles and four wheel drive vehicles have been prepared for emergency response use. All emergency power and communications equipment has been tested.
State Police troopers normally assigned to Traffic Incident Management and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement troopers have been re-assigned to patrol duties for this storm.
State Police will provide staff to any county emergency operations centers that may be activated to help coordinate responses with local agencies.
The Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services has staff in Emergency Operation Centers to coordinate state and county responses in affected areas.