Limited Thruway reopening at 3pm: for essential travel only
For information on road conditions, call 511
State Emergency Operations Center still monitoring situation
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today held a storm briefing in Western New York on the current winter storm conditions, where in some areas there are seven feet of lake effect snow already on the ground after several days of extreme weather. The Thruway and other roads will have a limited reopening at 3pm, for essential travel only, so that vehicles can move out of the region, ensure that necessary supplies can be delivered, and snow machinery can do its work. Recovery efforts are underway, with the state enlisting a larger collection of snow removal equipment in the region than ever before.
“We have gone through the worst in terms of snowfall, and now we are turning to snow removal. To remove the snow, we have to remove vehicles, which need a place to go. Therefore, we are going to start lifting driving bans for essential purposes only,” Governor Cuomo said. “When we are lifting these bans, we are not signifying that all is fine. The opening is to move vehicles that are blocking the roads. If at all possible, please stay in your homes.”
The Governor also discussed the consequences of the warm weather coming to the area in the next few days, which make the region especially prone to significant flooding due to the extremely large amount of snow. While the specifics of this are not predictable, the State is taking every precaution to prepare for such a case.
The Governor declared a State of Emergency Tuesday night for affected counties so that residents can receive as much assistance as possible. He also instructed the National Guard, the New York State Police, and all state agencies help affected residents and roadways. State offices remain closed in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Franklin, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, and Wyoming counties.
Road Openings for Essential Travel
The following roads will open at 3pm today, for essential travel purposes only, such as removing cars from the roads, delivering medication or health care, providing food to grocery stores, and to enable snow removal equipment to do its job:
- I-90 (New York State Thruway) exits 46 (near Rochester) – 50 (Williamsville)
- I-90 (New York State Thruway) exits 50A (Cleveland Drive) – 61 (state line): This section of the Thruway will allow motorists to enter, but not use local exits, with the exception of exit 53 to I-190, exit 54 to State Route 400, and exit 55 to US Route 219. Service areas will be open.
- I-190 (Niagara Thruway): some local exits may remain closed
- I-290: some local exits may remain closed
- Route 219: some local exits may remain closed
- Route 400: some local exits may remain closed
State Plows and Snow Removal Equipment Deployed to Region
The state has assembled over 1,598 personnel and 742 pieces of heavy equipment including 538 plows, 114 loaders, 60 dump trucks and 30 snow blowers to continue to address snow removal. The New York State Department of Transportation has a total of 422 snowplows, 1,044 operators and supervisors, 36 loaders and 17 large snow blowers working on recovery from this storm. The Department is fully stocked with road salt and has also activated private contractors to assist in clearing snow from roadways. Private contractors have committed 50 loaders, 40 large dump trucks, 12 tow vehicles and 220 personnel to assist in the cleanup. Three large snow blowers from the Connecticut Department of Transportation, along with supporting vehicles and 22 operators and supervisors arrived last night and are being deployed. The New York State Department of Transportation is also preparing to stage 40 large pumps in the event of flooding.
The New York State Thruway Authority has a total of 284 plow operators and supervisors working on the storm recovery, with 116 plow trucks, 24 front end loaders, five tri-axle dump trucks, four large snow blowers and 25,000 tons of salt. In addition, 12 operators, six large snow blowers, and two mechanics from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission are assisting the Thruway with their snow clearing operations. The Thruway is also being aided by private contractors who have supplied 15 tri-axle dump trucks, 14 operators, four front end loaders, four Euclid Rock trucks, and one dozer. State Police have 66 4x4 vehicles, 6 ATVs, 4 snowmobiles, and 3 four-wheel drive heavy duty armored vehicles assigned to storm response efforts.
Deployment of National Guard
Over 500 New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will be on duty today conducting snow removal missions, traffic control missions, and assisting law enforcement and emergency medical personnel movement missions.
Soldiers have been clearing paths at disabled residents’ group homes at the request of the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, and that mission will continue. New York Army National Guard Military Police Soldiers have also been assisting local law enforcement by conducting health and wellness visits in Boston and Clarence to check on local residents. Sixty Soldiers will continue to remove snow from the roof of the Eden Heights Nursing Home in West Seneca.
Equipment on hand today will include two large Air Guard runway clearance snow blowers, 17 Bobcats, 2 D-8 bulldozers, 13 front end loaders, 34 dump trucks, and 50 humvees. More equipment will be deployed as required. Troops clearing rooftops have also been equipped with small snow blowers.
Soldiers assigned to the mission are from the 153rd Troop Command and 152nd Engineer Company from Buffalo, the 827th Engineer Company in Horseheads, the 1152nd Engineer Company from Kingston, the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion in Rochester, the 2nd Squadron101st Cavalry which has elements in Buffalo, Jamestown and Niagara Falls, the 105th Military Police Company in Buffalo, and the 42nd Infantry Division.
Air National Guard Airmen supporting the mission are assigned to the 107th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, and the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia.
New York Army National Guard tractor trailers will also be in use today providing long-haul transportation support to the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and other state agencies by transporting supplies from across New York to the Buffalo area.
The following driving bans are in effect in Erie County: The Town of Elma, Town of Alden, Village of Alden, Town of Lancaster, Village of Lancaster, Town of Marilla, Town of Orchard Park, Town of West Seneca, City of Lackawanna, and the City of Buffalo (South Buffalo only).
The following driving bans are in effect for Genesee County: The Towns of Alexander, Le Roy (excluding the Village of Le Roy), Bethany, and Pavilion, Darien and Pembroke (including the Village of Corfu), due to a high number of abandoned vehicles and impassable roadways. No travel inside the Towns Alexander, Bethany, Darien, Penbroke, (including the Village of Corfu) and Pavilion, is permitted with the exception of Emergency Services.
As roads start to open, motorists should be advised that heavy equipment will still be operating to remove snow. Please drive with caution and see below for safety tips.
Due to the current condition of roads, the below road closures will be in effect until further notice. Driving on these roads is strictly prohibited and is unsafe for workers clearing the roadway:
- Route 5 from Route 179 to Lackawanna City Line Closed
- Ramp from Route 5 to the Thruway (I-90) south;
- Route 179, Mile Strip Road, from NYS Thruway (I-90) to Route 20
Public Transportation Delays and Cancellations
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) Southtowns bus service is still suspended 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: 14,15,16, 27, 36,42, 69,70,72,74,75, and 76. All other routes are operating, but may be running late.
Amtrak is continuing to restore service, running modified Empire Service schedules west of Albany today. Full Empire Service Schedules are expected tomorrow. Chicago Lake Shore Limited also resumes today. Amtrak yesterday restored service to route 63 and 64, the Maple Leaf, between New York City and Toronto.
As of 11:00 a.m. Friday, there were about 1,053 New Yorkers in the region without power, down from over 9,000 earlier in the week. To help with this, the New York State Public Service Commission will extend its call center helpline hours, which will continue Friday, November 21 until 7:30 PM, as needed, to assist consumers in storm preparation and response efforts. The helpline number is 1-800-342-3377.
Public Service Commission 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.
State Emergency Operations Center Open
Governor Cuomo activated the New York State Emergency Operations Center in Albany on Monday, November 17 at 8:00 PM, which will stay open through Friday, November 28. 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 State Education Department, State University of New York, and Office of General Services are now also providing representatives.
The storm is continuously being monitored by the Office of Emergency Management, which is in close contact with the National Weather Service and the affected counties and municipalities. The Office has stockpiles ready to deploy to counties that request them, including resources 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. The Office of Fire Prevention and Control has staff activated or deployed and currently operating at the New York State Emergency Operations Center, Erie County Emergency Operations Center, the City of Buffalo and has activated the UTV-Snowmobile task force.
The Office of Fire Prevention and Control and Erie County are managing a team of local and state agencies to assist with Response efforts. Teams are using specialized vehicles and equipment including ATVs, snow mobiles, K-9 teams, search cameras and listening devices to search through inaccessible areas of buildings and large snow mounds.
Additionally, the Office of Fire Prevention and Control has deployed teams including Urban Search and Rescue units to address structural collapse issues due to additional heavy snowfall, and is coordinating with local and regional collapse rescue assets in Erie, Monroe and Cayuga counties for potential deployment to any incident in the affected areas. Special Operations Branch staff have deployed to Erie County equipped to support size up and initial search operations at structural collapse incidents. Additional units are staged and ready for rapid deployment in Western New York and Northern Adirondacks if needed. The Office of Fire Prevention and Control Structural Task Force, made up of Urban Search and Rescue personnel and inspection staff, are currently assessing structures.
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, 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.
When we are lifting these bans, we are not signifying that all is fine. The opening is to move vehicles that are blocking the roads. If at all possible, please stay in your homes.
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.
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
B-roll of Governor Cuomo Touring Storm Damage and Response Efforts in South Buffalo and Erie County and Thanking National Guard Troops.
Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris, or pushing a car, can increase the risk of a heart attack. To avoid problems:
- Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.
- Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion.
- If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in the jaw or radiating down the arm -- STOP and seek help immediately.
If You Lose Power:
- First, call your utility to determine area repair schedules.
- Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate when power has been restored.
- If heat goes out during a winter storm, keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.
- Alternative Heating Safety Tips
Other Home Safety Tips:
- When removing snow and ice from driveways and sidewalks, stay clear of electric and natural gas meters to avoid damaging them, inadvertently disrupting service or putting yourself in danger. Snow and ice can damage electric and natural gas meters, natural gas pipes and natural gas regulators, so never bury any of this equipment when shoveling, using a snowblower or plowing.
- When removing snow or ice from a roof, never let it fall on electric or natural gas meters or related equipment.
- Natural gas appliance chimneys and vents should be kept free of snow and ice to prevent the build-up of potentially-deadly carbon monoxide.
- Be prepared if you smell natural gas. If you smell that distinctive sulfur-like odor – like the smell of rotten eggs – get up, get out and call your utility immediately from a cell phone or neighbor’s phone.
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.