January 11, 2016
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Warns New Yorkers to Prepare for Significant Lake Effect Snow

Governor Cuomo Warns New Yorkers to Prepare for Significant Lake Effect Snow

Two consecutive Lake Effect systems will bring heavy snow and high winds to Western New York, Central New York, the North Country and the Southern Tier for most of the week

Lake Effect Snow Warnings for Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, and Oswego Counties until January 12 at 4 a.m. and Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Wyoming Counties until January 11 at 7 p.m.

Lake Effect Snow Watches for Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Cayuga, Erie, Lewis, Oswego, and Wayne Counties until January 13 at 6 p.m. and Madison, Oneida, and Onondaga Counties until January 13 at 7 p.m.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today urged New Yorkers to prepare for heavy snow and hazardous wind gusts for most of the week, especially in Western New York, Central New York, the North Country and the Southern Tier. Wind gusts, especially in the heaviest snow bands, will produce whiteout conditions at times and make driving extremely dangerous.

"Current reports show that this unseasonably mild weather is coming to an end for many parts of New York," Governor Cuomo said. "With up to three feet of snow in the forecast and winds that could make driving hazardous and knock out power, I'm asking residents to be prepared, stay informed and use extra caution when traveling."

The forecast over the next several days calls for multiple systems that have the potential to produce 1 to 2 feet of snow east of Lake Erie and 2 to 3 feet of snow in the Tug Hill Plateau by mid to late week. Accumulations of 20 to 32 inches are possible in Central New York and the North Country, with isolated areas of 36 to 40 inches of snowfall in far southern Jefferson, central/southern Lewis, northern Oswego, and extreme northern Oneida Counties. The Mohawk Valley will see 14 to 24 inches of snowfall, with isolated areas of 30 inches in extreme northern Oneida, central/southern Lewis, and central/northern Herkimer Counties. Heavy snow bands will make driving very difficult during the peak evening commute times in Buffalo and Rochester areas tonight and Tuesday as 6 to 8 inches could fall during these condensed time periods.

The New York State Department of Transportation’s Variable Message Signs will display critical weather warnings. Approximately 1,600 operators and supervisors in impacted regions are ready to respond with 609 large plow/dump trucks, 69 medium plow/dump trucks, 144 loaders, 29 truck/loader mounted snow blowers, 28 tow plows, 9 pickup trucks with plows and additional resources as necessary.

The Department of Transportation has more than 149,000 tons of road salt on hand. Motorists are reminded to check 511NY by calling 511 or by accessing www.511ny.org before traveling. The free service allows users to check road conditions and transit information. Mobile users can download the updated, free 511NY mobile app from the iTunes or Google Play stores. The app now features Drive mode, which provides audible alerts along a chosen route while a user is driving, warning them about incidents and construction. Users can set a destination prior to departing and receive information on up to three routes.

The New York State Thruway Authority shifted resources into the Buffalo region on Sunday to respond to the lake effect snow storms. With the additional resources, the Thruway has 193 operators ready to deploy 75 large snow plows, 40 medium snow plows, 23 front-end loaders, and 12 snow blowers. The Thruway Authority has approximately 39,000 tons of road salt along the system in western New York.

Variable Message Signs will display critical weather warnings, for both the Thruway and the Department of Transportation.

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 here. Thruway travelers can also get real-time updates by following @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or by visiting thruway.ny.gov to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions for the Thruway and other New York State roadways.

All New Yorkers can obtain emergency information through NY-ALERT, the State’s free, all-hazards, web-based alert and notification system. To subscribe, visit nyalert.gov. If you do not own or have access to a computer, call toll-free 1-888-697-6972 or download the app on your smartphone at ialertz.com.

Safe Travel

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 snowplows travel slower than highway speeds and motorists should use caution when traveling near them. 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:

  • When winter storms strike, do not drive unless necessary.
  • 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.
  • Keep your gas tank full to prevent gasoline freeze-up.
  • If you have a cell phone or 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.
  • Make sure someone knows your travel plans.

Winterize Your Vehicle

Preparing your vehicle for the winter season now will help ensure your vehicle is in good working order when you need it most. Have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle:

  • Battery
  • Wipers and windshield washer fluid
  • Antifreeze
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Flashing hazard lights
  • Heater
  • Brakes
  • Defroster
  • Oil level

Also be sure to:

  • Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. You may also want to carry a set of tire chains in your vehicle for heavy snow conditions.
  • Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal and maintain at least a half tank of gas throughout the winter season.
  • Plan long trips carefully. Listen to the local media report or call law enforcement agencies for the latest road conditions.

Drive Safely

The leading cause of injuries and death during winter storms is transportation accidents.

  • Before getting behind the wheel this winter season, every driver could learn a lesson from our school bus drivers. It is elementary, but we have to keep our vehicles clear of ice and snow. Good vision is a key to good driving.
  • Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars. Be extra alert. Remember, snowdrifts can hide smaller children. Moreover, always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.

If caught in the storm and are unable to continue traveling:

  • Stay in your car and wait for help to find you.
  • Run your engine for short periods of time to stay warm. Keep your down-wind window open and make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow.
  • Turn on the dome light at night when you are running the engine to signal rescuers.
  • Hang a brightly colored piece of cloth or piece of clothing from your car.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

Albany Press Office: 518.474.8418

NYC Press Office: 212.681.4640