Travel Advisory Issued from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Today - With Sustained Winds of 25-30 MPH and Gusts of Up to 60 MPH
Extreme Weather Expected to Create Dangerous Whiteout Conditions; Evening and Overnight Temperatures Expected to Cause Hazardous Black Ice; Coastal Flooding Possible
JFK Airport Closed; LaGuardia to Cancel More than 95 Percent of Flights; MacArthur Airport Cancels All Flights
State Parks on Long Island Closed
Governor Activates State Emergency Operations Center to Level 4 Enhanced Monitoring
This morning, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency across New York City, Long Island and Westchester. Additionally, a travel advisory has been issued from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, with the worst weather expected from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sustained winds of 25-30 mph are expected with gusts of up to 60 mph across the downstate region. The coastal system is expected to bring 6 to 10 inches of snow to New York City; 4 to 8 inches to Nassau County; 9 to 12 inches to Suffolk County; and 4 to 8 inches to Westchester County. The system will also create blizzard conditions that could lead to blowing snow and whiteouts on roadways, with coastal flooding possible and overnight drops in temperatures causing hazardous black ice.
Yesterday, the Governor activated the State Emergency Operations Center at a Level 4 enhanced monitoring to track potentially dangerous winter storm conditions from two different low-pressure systems - one approaching from the north and the other affecting coastal areas - as well as frigid temperatures that will overspread the state through this weekend.
AUDIO of Governor Cuomo's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below.
Good morning. Starting at my left, we have with us Lieutenant Colonel Bob Nuzzo from the New York State Police. We then have Mr. Rick Cotton who's the executive director of the Port Authority. Cathy Calhoun, to my immediate left, as the Director of State Operations. To my right, Mr. Joseph Lhota, Chairman of the MTA. And to his right, Roger Parrino, who's the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security.
As everybody knows we have a snowstorm. But it's a snowstorm plus, let's call it, and we're going to be declaring a state of emergency because the situation has continued to deteriorate. We're going to have a state of emergency for the entire downstate region, starting in Westchester, south, and Long Island. In terms of the snowfall the predictions have increased where we believe there will be more snow. Up to 6 to 10 inches in New York City, 9 to 12 inches on Long Island. 4 to 8 in Westchester. The storm is tracking heavier towards the east, so New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, the heaviest. On the current track of the storm.
I say snowstorm plus, because snow is one thing. We can handle snow. It's snow plus the wind, which is going to cause the trouble today. The wind is going to be high all throughout the day. 25 to 35 miles per hour, higher on Long Island. Gusts up to 60 miles per hour. Those are significant wind gusts. Again primarily on Long Island but some in New York City. Worse as you go east, so Queens will be worse than Manhattan. Suffolk worse than Nassau. The wind compounds the problem because snow is one thing. Snow with 60 mile per hour gusts of wind are a totally different situation to deal with. It's almost impossible to clear roads when you have those high wind gusts because as soon as you clear the road, the wind literally just brings the snow back across the road. We expect the wind to be picking up in the later hours. And the late afternoon rush hour to be problematic than the morning rush hour.
And that's why the situation is somewhat deceptive. People drove into work today and they experienced one situation, which was not pleasant but was doable. The situation will deteriorate through the day and the afternoon and evening rush hour we expect to be worse, especially on Long Island. We have had this situation before where people come to work and they expect the situation to remain constant through the day. But the situation deteriorates, and then come rush hour the situation is especially problematic. Our concern is more at this point for long island. The long island expressway given the configuration of Long Island, it is an island, it's off the water, the wind off the water on Long Island, which is a narrow strip of land, creates mayhem. We've had frightening situations on the Long Island Expressway. We've had people stranded on the LIE overnight. And it has literally become a significant issue of public safety. It's become an issue of life and death. And when you have people stranded on the LIE that situation is very serious. Trying to get to them, trying to get to them in those wind gusts. As soon as one or two cars get stuck on a road, you can no longer clear that road, because the plows can't get past the stuck cars. So there's a very quick spiral into chaos. And that's what we're concerned about.
We have done everything that we can do in terms of preparing for the storm, this is not our first rodeo. The storms have been getting worse, extreme weather is a reality. We're seeing storms of a severity that we've never seen before. We have made significant changes over the years. We've acquired much more emergency equipment than we have ever had before, we now have more plows, more heavy duty equipment, we have more personnel. In this storm, as you'll hear, we have thousands of people deployed and thousands of pieces of equipment. We brought equipment from other parts of the state to assist in downstate. We have now mobile deployment fleets so when there's a problem upstate, we can shift to upstate, when there's a problem downstate we can shift to downstate. That's what we've done here.
The MTA is no stranger to these situations, they took precautions over the past several days knowing the storm was coming. They stored trains, they have all sorts of sophisticated equipment, but then again, at the end of the day you're dealing with trains that travel on tracks. Some of those tracks are exposed to snow, they have electrical components, it's cold, it's frigid. Mechanical situations, mechanical systems tend to break down. It's not even a question of preparedness at one point.
Mother Nature can bring a severity that is beyond your control, period. Same thing with clearing of the roads with the Department of Transportation, same thing with the Port Authority. You have runways, the runways have to be clear, if the runways are not clear, you now have a danger for air travel. We have a constant balance that we're trying to weigh between keeping everything open so businesses are open, and people are going to work and the economy is running. On the other side of the scale is public safety. You don't want to bring out the public in situations where there could be danger to human life. Somebody said to me this morning, "Well it can't be that bad because you didn't close the roads and you didn't close the subway." There have been situations where we have closed the subway and closed the roads. Those are extreme situations. Those are situations where the threat to public safety overwhelms the damage to the economy by closing down the subway and the road system. That does not mean because the roads and the trains are running that it is a situation that is especially safe or easy.
This state of emergency means unless it is essential for you to be out on the roads and moving around today, you should not be. And it becomes a question of common sense for New Yorkers. If there is something you have to do today, and you have no viable alternative, then you should know you are putting yourself in a situation of risk and other people in a situation of risk. One car gets stuck on the roads, as I mentioned before, you make it virtually impossible to clear those roads. One accident, you now need an ambulance, you need a police car, and you subject all those people to danger. So common sense - err on the side of caution. The situation is going to get worse as the day goes on, it's going to get worse the further east we go. With that, I'll turn it over first, to Mr. Rick Cotton to talk about the Port Authority then we'll go from there.