State of Emergency in Effect for Erie, Genesee and Herkimer Counties
Tractor Trailers and Buses Remain Banned from Several Upstate Highways - Violators Will Be Punished with Fines, Two Points on the License and Potential Criminal Charges
Areas in Lake Effect Regions May Receive Additional 2-3 Feet of Snow or More through Friday Morning
Wind Chills as Low as 35 Degrees Below Zero or Colder Will Result in Life-Threatening Conditions
Hazardous Travel Conditions Expected to Continue Due to Blowing Snow and Freezing Temperatures
State Emergency Operations Center Remains Activated to Level 3
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today updated New Yorkers on both the string of impactful winter weather that continues to affect most parts of the State, as well as the State's response to these storms. Snow events on Tuesday and Wednesday have left most of Upstate New York with anywhere between 12 to 24 inches of snow, while pockets of Western New York and the North Country have experienced up to 2 feet. By Thursday evening, these areas, which are often impacted by persistent lake effect snow bands can expect to see up to an additional 2 to 3 feet of snow. Additionally, the polar vortex that entered New York from the north on Wednesday morning continues to engulf most of the State in freezing cold air. High wind gusts and frigid temperatures will result in dangerous wind chills, as well as health threats such as frostbite and hypothermia through late Thursday. On Wednesday night, the Governor directed non-essential state employees in Erie County that they do not need to report to work Thursday morning. The Governor also announced that a State of Emergency is in effect for Erie, Genesee and Herkimer Counties.
Travel remains difficult to near-impossible across the State in several locations as hazardous weather conditions impact roads with blowing snow and freezing temperatures. A ban remains in place for tractor trailers and commercial buses for the duration of the storm along multiple State routes and interstates. Violators of this ban will be punished with fines, two points on the license and potential criminal charges. Additionally, several local municipalities have enacted travel advisories and speed restrictions due to hazardous travel conditions.
Governor Cuomo pre-deployed state assets ahead of the storm and those assets remain fully engaged in helping local governments respond. The State Emergency Operations Center continues to be in a Level 3 activation to assist with emergency response activities as well.
"Heavy lake effect snow and dangerous wind chills are expected to continue to impact most of upstate through Friday morning, and I urge all New Yorkers to remain vigilant and stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary," Governor Cuomo said. "Make no mistake, these storms have created hazardous travel conditions and while snow is nothing new to upstate New Yorkers, residents should take the necessary precautions when venturing outside. Tractor trailer and bus bans remain in effect on several upstate highways, and violators of this ban and the companies they work for will be punished appropriately."
Local State of Emergency
The following localities have declared a State of Emergency:
- Erie County
- Genesee County
- Herkimer County
- City of Buffalo
- Town and Village of Orchard Park
- City of Lackawanna
- Town of Cheektowaga
- Town and Village of Hamburg
- Town and Village of Lancaster
- Town of Newstead
- Village of Blasdell
- Village of Illion
New Yorkers should pay close attention to local weather reports to stay up to date with the latest information. The National Weather Service has issued Wind Chill Warnings for many parts of the State, as well as several various weather alerts such as Blizzard Warnings and Ice Jam Flooding Warnings for different areas of the state. For a complete listing of weather alerts and forecasts, visit your local National Weather Service website.
Tractor Trailer/Bus Ban
Tractor trailers and commercial buses are 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; State Route 5 from State Route 179 to I-190; and Interstate 81 from the Canadian Border to State Route 104. The bans will last for the duration of the storm.
The tractor trailer and bus ban will continue to be strictly enforced by State Police on these roads and highways. Tractor trailer and bus drivers, as well as their companies, who violate these bans will be held accountable. Violators will be punished with fines up to $450, two points on the license and potential criminal charges.
Heavy lake effect snow and dangerous wind chills are expected to continue to impact most of upstate through Friday morning, and I urge all New Yorkers to remain vigilant and stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.
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 responding statewide with 1,500 plow trucks, 184 medium duty plows, 51 tow plows, 326 large loaders, and 39 snow blowers. In addition, nearly 3,900 supervisors and operators are available statewide.
The Department is also deploying significant assets to the Western New York region to help residents dig out from the storm. Assets on hand in Western New York include 485 supervisors and operators plus 37 operators, supervisors and mechanics, 183 large plow trucks, 15 medium duty plows, five tow plows, 37 large loaders, six snow blowers, and 34,733 tons of salt. On Monday, the Department sent 15 large plow trucks, 30 operators and two supervisors from the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, one snow blower from the Hudson Valley, two equipment operator instructors from the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier, two mechanics from the Southern Tier, and one Incident Command System (ICS) support staff member from the Capital Region.
Yesterday, an additional 15 plow trucks, 30 operators, six supervisors, and two mechanics from the Capital Region, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier were deployed to Buffalo and other areas of Western New York to help municipalities impacted by the storm. At the request of Mayor Byron Brown, DOT committed 12 plow trucks to help keep municipal roads in the city open, with additional plow trucks available as needed.
Concerted efforts also continue in the North Country, especially in the Tug Hill area. The Region received 18 large plow trucks, 20 operators, one snow blower and two supervisors from Long Island, Capital Region and the Southern Tier to deal with the impact of the storm earlier this week.
The Thruway Authority has 669 supervisors and operators, 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 being 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 continuing with increased patrols in the affected areas, and are ready with additional personnel as needed. All four-wheel drive vehicles are deployed and all specialty vehicles, including snowmobiles and Utility Task Vehicles, are staged and ready for deployment. Since the start of this storm, Troopers have responded to more than 720 crashes, and have handled more than 760 disabled vehicles.
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
DEC Police Officers, Forest Rangers, Emergency Management staff, and regional staff are on alert, monitoring and actively patrolling areas 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.
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 cold weather
- 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.
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.
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
- 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.