November 25, 2014
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Urges Motorists to be Safe and Consider Potentially Hazardous Conditions When Planning Holiday Travel

Governor Cuomo Urges Motorists to be Safe and Consider Potentially Hazardous Conditions When Planning Holiday Travel

Winter Weather Watches and Warnings in Effect from New York City to Albany

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today urged motorists to be safe and adjust plans if possible ahead of potentially hazardous winter weather conditions this holiday week. The National Weather Service has issued Winter Weather Watches and Warnings in and around New York State, with heavy and drifting snow predicted to move south to north beginning early Wednesday and continue through Thanksgiving on Thursday. At this time, predicted snowfall amounts vary from 7 to 16 inches throughout the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys, including the Capital District. The New York City Area is currently under a Winter Storm Watch and could see 4 to 8 inches of accumulation. While the storm is not predicted to become severe at this time, the State is actively monitoring the storm and taking all precautions necessary to prepare.

"This is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, and with winter weather expected to impact much of the state, I urge all travelers to plan ahead and exercise caution," Governor Cuomo said. "I've directed State agencies to be on heightened alert as this storm develops, and we are taking all necessary precautions to address potentially hazardous conditions. We're hoping for the best, but planning for the worst in order to keep New Yorkers safe."

The Governor is urging those traveling – either by road, rail or air – to travel today, Tuesday, if possible in order to avoid congestion and delays tomorrow, and to call 5-1-1 for the latest transportation information before heading out.

In response to the lake effect snow emergency and threat of flooding in Western New York, Governor Cuomo last week requested municipalities across New York send snow removal equipment and personnel to the region. In anticipation of this week's downstate storm, the Governor has already directed non-vital equipment to return to their downstate bases.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the busiest travel days of the year. State road crews are prepared with salt and plows, and are actively monitoring weather reports and road conditions to ensure safe travels. However, in the event of any precipitation, motorists should expect longer travel times due to reduced speeds and longer wait times at exits and toll booths with the added volume of travelers over the holiday.

The State has prepared the following preparations for this week's winter weather event, including:

  • The New York State Thruway Authority has available 160 plows, 298 plow operators and supervisors, two large truck-mounted snow blowers, six utility snow blowers and more than 55,000 tons of road salt between New York City and Albany.
  • The State Department of Transportation has available 751 plows, 1,503 plow operators and 194,422 tons of road salt between New York City and Albany.
  • The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has 79 subway trains with scraper shoes that reduce icing on the third rail and 98 pieces of snow-fighting equipment to keep its vehicular bridges and tunnels clear, along with 9,180 tons of roadway deicer on hand. Its bus division has 31 snow fighting trucks and 21 tow trucks to patrol bus routes. The LIRR and Metro-North are activating switch heaters throughout their 5,000 square-mile territory, have crews at the ready keep train platforms clear of snow and ice, will pre-position diesel locomotives on standby at key-locations in case trains need to be towed, as well as install scraper shoes and ready snow-fighting jet air blowers and patrol trains as needed.
  • The Port Authority has more than 200 pieces of snow equipment at its airports, including snow melters that can liquefy up to 500 tons of snow an hour, more than 60 pieces of snow equipment at its bridges and tunnels, thousands of tons of salt and hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquid anti-icer chemicals at the airports. The Port Authority also has prepared plow-equipped trains, including a “jet engine” plow to remove snow from PATH tracks, and approximately 1,000 staff members and contractors with years of specialized training and professional experience in handling severe winter weather at transportation facilities.

The State Police have in place contingency plans to send additional Troopers throughout the region should storm conditions make such a deployment necessary.

Winter Driving Safety:

While road crews strive to keep the roadways as safe as possible during winter weather, motorists are urged to take necessary precautions while traveling during the winter months, including:

  • 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.
  • 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
  • Shovel
  • 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

Please visit the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website for more winter driving and safety tips.

Power Outages:

Additionally, because the temperature is forecasted to be at or around freezing, snow will likely be wet and heavy, posing a higher risk to residents and businesses of losing power. If you lose electrical service during this time, follow these tips:

  • Call your utility company to report the outage and determine the area's repair schedule. Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
  • In the event that the temperature dips below freezing, turn on faucets slightly to prevent freezing pipes.
  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
    • Do not operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
    • Do not use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
    • Do not use your gas oven to heat your home. Prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
    • Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage.

If you choose to run a generator during a power outage, be sure to follow these safety guidelines:

  • Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Run generators outside, downwind of structures. NEVER run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generators exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces. Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
  • Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most of the small, home-use portable generators produce from 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it, the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep children away from generators at all times.

If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Use only the correct fuel for your unit.
  • Refuel outdoors only when the unit is cool.
  • Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
  • When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

NYC Press Office:  212.681.4640

Albany Press Office:  518.474.8418