Urges motorists to stay off the road for their own safety
State Emergency Operations Center remains open for those affected by storm
To view a photo of the Thruway conditions near Buffalo, click here.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today deployed the National Guard to help those affected by the ongoing snowstorm and provide resources to help with the emergency situation in Western New York. This is in addition to the current assistance on roadways from the Thruway Authority, Department of Transportation, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and Department of Environmental Conservation, which includes plows, snowmobiles, personnel, and other storm supplies. With snow not expected to ease until at least Thursday evening, the New York State Emergency Operations Center remains open to assist anyone in need of help due to the storm.
“We are deploying the National Guard to ramp up efforts to keep Western New York residents safe and to assist storm recovery efforts in any way possible," Governor Cuomo said. "Travel bans and advisories remain in effect, and I urge drivers to stay off the roads so that our state agencies and the National Guard can assist those that need help."
Deployment of National Guard
The New York National Guard will mobilize 150 soldiers and airmen, 7 Bobcats, 10 dump trucks, and 5 Humvees. Soldiers will come from the 152nd Engineer company in Buffalo and the 827thEngineer Company in Horseheads. Airmen from the 107th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will also respond.
Travel bans are in effect in Lancaster, West Seneca, South Buffalo, Cheektowaga and Hamburg. During a travel ban, driving for any reason is prohibited. Travel advisories, which restrict drivers from any unnecessary trips, are ongoing in all of Erie and Genesee Counties.
Due to the current condition of roads, road closures will be in effect until further notice:
- NYS Thruway (I-90) from Exit 46 in Rochester to Exit 61 in Ripley;
- I-290 from Exit 6 (Sheridan Drive) to the Thruway (I-90);
- I-190 Niagara Thruway from exit 1 (South Ogden Street, near Thruway mainline exit 53) to exit 16 (I-290, neat South Grand Island Bridge);
- Route 5 (the Skyway) between I-190 Niagara Thruway and Tifft Street in the city of Buffalo;
- Route 219 between the Thruway and Route 39 in the town of Concord;
- Route 400 between the Thruway in West Seneca and Route 16 in the town of Aurora.
Public Transportation Delays and Cancellations
Additionally, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) has suspended Southtowns bus service due to continuing snow and impassable roads. Buses are still operating in the City of Buffalo and in the north towns. The following Metro routes are not running at this time: 1,2,14,15,16,36,42,36,42,69,70,72,74,75, and 76. All other routes are operating, but may be running late.
State Emergency Operations Center Open
Governor Cuomo activated the New York State Emergency Operations Center in Albany on November 17 at 8:00 PM, which will stay open through Wednesday evening. Personnel from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (with staff from the Office of Emergency Management as well as the 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 are on hand to provide assistance.
The storm is being monitored and the Office of Emergency Management is in close contact with the National Weather Service, with stockpiles ready to deploy to counties that request including assets such as generators and storm supplies. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services has regional directors and staff from the Office of Emergency Management in the county Emergency Operations Centers.
State Plows and Small Removal Equipment Deployed to Region
The New York State Department of Transportation moved 8 plows and 36 operators and supervisors from around the state to Western New York to assist with snow removal operations. Plows are currently working to clear paths for tow trucks to assist motorists stuck in the snow. They will have a total of 410 snowplows and 1,018 operators and supervisors working on this storm. The Department is fully stocked with road salt and has also activated local contractors to assist in clearing snow from roadways.
The New York State Thruway Authority has a total of 200 plow operators and supervisors working on the storm, with 97 plow trucks, 18 front end loaders, one large truck-mounted snow blower and 37,000 tons of salt. The Thruway Authority has moved additional resources to Western New York including nine heavy duty plow trucks, two front end loaders, two large snow blowers and nine plow operators.
Use Caution If Travel Is Necessary
It is important for motorists on all roads to note that 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.
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
- 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 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 a color-coded 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 at http://www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.shtml. 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, visit http://www.thruway.ny.gov/travelers/map/index.html?layer=traffic.
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services also recommends that residents should prepare their homes and families for 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 on the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/publicsafety/winter.cfm.