Winter Weather Brought Heavy, Wet Snow Causing Power Outages and Difficult Travel Conditions in Several Upstate Regions
State's Emergency Operations Center Activated to Coordinate Requests for Assistance from Local Governments; Utility Crews Working to Assess Damages and Restore Outages in Hardest Hit Communities
At Peak, Approximately 195,000 Total Outages Reported Tuesday, Broome County Travel Ban in Place Due to Downed Trees and Lack of Power
Governor Kathy Hochul today activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Albany where staff from multiple State Agencies and the Office of Emergency Management are working together to coordinate requests for assistance from local governments following the late winter storm that dumped heavy, wet snow in upstate regions, leaving 195,000 households without power and causing travel issues during Tuesday's morning commute. The largest impacts were to the Southern Tier and parts of the Capital Region, Mohawk Valley and North Country, where six to 11 inches of snow fell overnight.
"While we may be officially done with winter, it's evident that winter isn't quite done with us," Governor Hochul said. "This storm dumped wet, heavy snow that brought trees, branches, and power lines down with it—impacting tens of thousands of people across several counties. Our State Emergency Operations Center continues to work closely with impacted local governments to help clear damage and get power and heat back on. As crews work through the night and into the morning, I encourage people living in impacted areas to make a plan for the next two to three days, use caution with alternative heat sources, take their time shoveling heavy snow, and check in on neighbors."
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "Mother Nature has brought another late-season storm and we're working to ensure communities experiencing outages have the resources they need to respond and keep New Yorkers safe. Our Emergency Operations Center in Albany is activated, and we are coordinating with our partners on the ground in the affected counties to coordinate response and provide support wherever needed."
At its peak on Tuesday morning, more than 195,000 customers across the state were without power due to the winter storm that continues to produce snow and rain upstate. The Department of Public Service received reports of significant tree damage throughout the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and North Country regions. Broome County experienced more than 45,000 outages, while Chenango, Fulton, Otsego, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Warren Counties all experienced between 10,000 and 16,000 outages. Damage assessment crews from the utility companies are working to determine the extent of pole and conductor damage and responding to numerous 911/emergency calls for downed trees and wires. Both National Grid and and NYSEG have secured more 1,000 additional line personnel and are shifting resources into the affected areas.
New York State agencies will continue to coordinate response activities and offer assistance to help respond in Broome, Chenango, Hamilton, Herkimer and Otsego Counties, which are currently under local States of Emergency.
"This storm dumped wet, heavy snow that brought trees, branches, and power lines down with it—impacting tens of thousands of people across several counties.
The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms are transportation-related crashes. 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 mph, 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 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 important to drive at slower speeds when approaching patches of them.
- Make sure your car is stocked with 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.
- While driving, keep vehicles clear of ice and snow.
- Plan stops and keep distance between cars. Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.
If experiencing a power outage, New Yorkers should:
- Turn off or disconnect major appliances and other equipment, e.g., computers, in case of a momentary power surge that can damage these devices. Keep one light turned on so you know when power returns. Consider using surge protectors wherever you use electronic equipment.
- Call your utility provider to notify them of the outage and listen to local broadcasts for official information. For a list of utilities, visit the State Department of Public Service.
- Check to see if your neighbors have power. Check on people with access or functional needs.
- Use only flashlights for emergency lighting - candles pose the risk of fire.
- Keep refrigerators and freezer doors closed - most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for several hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately four (4) hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
- Do not use a charcoal grill indoors and do not use a gas stove for heat - they could give off harmful levels of carbon monoxide.
- In cold weather, stay warm by dressing in layers and minimizing time spent outdoors. Be aware of cold stress symptoms (i.e., hypothermia) and seek proper medical attention if symptoms appear.
- If you are in a tall building, take the stairs and move to the lowest level of the building. If trapped in an elevator, wait for assistance. Do not attempt to force the doors open. Remain patient - there is plenty of air and the interior of the elevator is designed for passenger safety.
- Remember to provide fresh, cool water for your pets.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion and dangerous driving conditions. If you must drive during a blackout, remember to obey the 4-way stop rule at intersections with non-functioning traffic signals.
- Remember that equipment such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and elevators may not be working.
For more safety tips, visit the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Safety Tips web page.
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