Limited Thruway and Other Road Reopenings By 1 P.M.
Weather Expected to Worsen at 3 P.M. and Through Rush Hour
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued an update on the severe winter storm that brought snowfall, bitter cold, and high winds to Western New York last night. The storm is expected to worsen beginning at 3 p.m. this afternoon and continue with harsh conditions through rush hour and the evening. The Thruway and other roads will have a limited reopening by 1 p.m., but some portions will remain closed until they are safe for travel.
"While the State is reopening several roads and highways in areas no longer being hit hard by the snow, I urge motorists to use extreme caution and travel only if necessary," Governor Cuomo said. "With more snow expected later this afternoon and this evening, drivers should be prepared for roads in affected areas to be closed later in the day and plan accordingly."
Currently, the Southtowns area is expected to see up to three feet of snow this evening, with snow accumulating at 2-3 inches per hour coupled with heavy winds. Surrounding areas including the City of Buffalo may see lake effect snowfall, which is dependent on where the storm moves later tonight. The Governor activated on Thursday the New York State Emergency Operations Center, which is continuously monitoring the storm and managing response plans.
The following roads will open at 1 p.m. 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 in both directions between exits 46 and 53
- I-190 in both directions with the exception of exit 7 (Route 5/Skyway)
- I-290 ramps
- Route 5 eastbound between Ridge Road and I-190
The following roads remain closed:
- I-90 in both directions between exits 53 and 61
- I-190 southbound ramp to westbound I-90
- US Route 219 (Southern Expressway) north and southbound between I-90 and Route 39
- Route 400 (Aurora Expressway) north and southbound between I-90 and Route 16
- Route 5 westbound between I-190 and Ridge Road
The National Weather Service has issued Lake Effect Snow Warnings for southern Erie, Wyoming, Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis Counties through Saturday at 6:00 pm. Very heavy Lake Effect Snow and blowing will create near zero visibility and deep snow cover on roads and some may become nearly impassable at times. Accumulations could reach 3 to 5 feet in the most persistent snow bands. Lake Effect Snow Warnings also remain in effect in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties, mainly along the Lake Erie shore and far north through Saturday until 1:00 PM. Accumulations of 2-3 feet are expected by Saturday. Motorists should avoid any unnecessary travel during this storm as accumulating and blowing snow will make driving treacherous.
New York State Police
The Division of State Police continues to closely monitor road closures and restrictions. All available resources are responding to calls and State Police Emergency Management personnel continue to staff open county Emergency Operation Centers. Weather related incident reporting procedures are in place for the duration of the storm.
To assist the Thruway Authority and Department of Transportation in the closure of Routes I-90 and I-290 in Buffalo, the New York National Guard is mobilizing 15 vehicles (humvees) with at least two Soldiers/Airmen per vehicle to assist the New York State Police in closing on ramps to I-90 and I-290.
Last night the 107th Airlift Wing deployed 5 vehicles and 20 Airmen to assist the Thruway Authority and State Police with this mission. They blocked two ramps at Exit 51 and four ramps at Exit 52. A vehicle from the Thruway Authority was assigned to assist them in blocking the entrance ramps.
Those five vehicles were replaced by 5 vehicles from the 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry at Masten Avenue Armory. The 107th Airlift Wing will be tasked to replace those current vehicle crews with new Airmen and put them back on the street along with additional vehicles and airmen.
The New York National Guard has stood up a headquarters section at the Connecticut Street Armory and Major General Murphy, the Adjutant General is on the scene this morning.
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.
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
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.
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.
New York State provides a travel advisory system that features real-time travel reports and road conditions, which can be accessed by dialing 511 or online at www.511ny.org. 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. It also provides links to airport, rail and transit information.
Motorists are encouraged to sign up for TRANSalert e-mails which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway. Motorists can sign up for TRANSalerts by following this link: http://www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.shtml. Thruway travelers can also get real-time updates by following @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or by visiting http://www.thruway.ny.gov to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions for the Thruway and other New York State roadways.