Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today declared a statewide state of emergency as a major winter storm has already started to bring heavy snow, sub-zero temperatures and high winds across New York State. A state of emergency mobilizes resources to local governments that otherwise are restricted to state use only and allows the Governor to suspend laws and regulations that would impede rapid response.
The Governor urged New Yorkers to avoid traveling and stay inside their homes until the worst of the storm has passed.
“As this winter storm unfolds, bringing heavy snow and high winds to many parts of the state, I strongly urge all New Yorkers to exercise caution, avoid travel, and stay indoors,” Governor Cuomo said. “To ensure an effective and rapid response to this winter storm, I am declaring a statewide state of emergency, so resources can get to communities where they are needed as quickly as possible.”
Steps taken to ensure readiness include:
Roads and Bridges
The following actions will allow plow operations on critical roadways to be maintained overnight while ensuring driver safety:
· Vehicular traffic will be banned on the following roads beginning at midnight tonight with an anticipated reopening at 5a.m. dependent upon weather conditions: Interstate 84 from the Pennsylvania state line to the Connecticut state line; Interstate 87 from exit 24 in Albany to the New York City border and the Long Island Expressway in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The ban will be enforced with a combination of entrance closures and police enforcement. Violators of the ban will be subject to a Class B misdemeanor.
· Interstate 84 from the Pennsylvania state line to the Connecticut state line will be closed to commercial truck traffic due to the winter weather conditions beginning at 5 p.m. All commercial vehicles including large trucks (over 26,000 pounds GCWR/GVWR), tractors, tractor trailers and buses will not be permitted on the 70-mile stretch of highway. Interstate 84 will be closed to all traffic beginning at midnight. The ban will remain in effect until further notice.
· Motorists using bridges should allow extra travel time and operate at reduced speeds due to wet roadways. As the storm intensifies, high winds and white out conditions may result in intermittent bridge or ramp closures. Certain vehicles, including motorcycles, tractor trailers, step vans, mini buses, trucks with open backs, cars pulling trailers, motorhomes, and vehicles carrying plate glass, may be temporarily barred from using crossings due to high winds and wet roadways.
· A 35 mph speed limit is in effect on the Tappan Zee Bridge.
· There are approximately 470,000 tons of salt on hand across the state to pre-treat roads as precipitation begins.
· All Thruway and New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) maintenance headquarters will be fully staffed around the clock for the duration of the storm.
· The contractor building the New NY Bridge, Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) will suspend all construction work on Friday due to the impending storm. TZC is currently securing all marine vessels at the project site. Crane booms and other equipment are being tied down, double checked and positioned to avoid any potential damage. TZC will maintain a small crew on site overnight to continuously monitor conditions and respond immediately to any problems.
The New York State Department of Transportation and New York State Thruway Authority have plows available statewide to clear snow and treat roads with salt and are sending additional plows to assist with snow operations in Long Island. NYSDOT crews in will be out before the storm pre-treating the roads with salt to help slow ice and snow buildup. In addition, NYSDOT has private contractors on standby with additional equipment and personnel to be deployed as necessary.
· Trains will be parked on underground express tracks to keep them safe from the weather, which may curtail some express service on subways.
· The MTA advises customers that cold temperatures and blowing snow may require suspension of some portions of the region’s bus and commuter train operations, in order to protect customers and employees. Customers should avoid non-essential travel and should check service status at mta.info or calling 511 before beginning journeys.
· The MTA has prepped and deployed its fleet of snow- and ice-busting equipment to keep outdoor tracks, switches and the electrified third rail clear of snow and ice. The subway system has almost 220 miles of outdoor track, and vulnerable outdoor areas include the A train in the Rockaways, the N, B and Q trains in Brooklyn and the 5 line in the Bronx.
· Almost 500 people have been deployed to spread salt and clear snow and ice from subway stairways and platforms tonight, with 840 on the overnight tour.
· Personnel have been deployed to help keep bus stops clear of ice and snow. Employees and equipment have been strategically placed to respond to any problems buses may encounter on the road. Special attention is paid to hilly routes which could pose problems. All buses will have chains installed by 7 p.m. this evening, and most articulated buses will be replaced with standard buses, which are easier to maneuver in snow and ice.
· NYCT Buses will have 2,900 buses equipped with tire chains tonight, along with 25 snow-fighting trucks and 10 two trucks.
· MTA Bridges and Tunnels has nearly 100 snow-fighting vehicles staffed and ready and more than 7,000 tons of snow-melt available.
· Subways have six de-icers crewed and operating in rail yards.
· Long Island Rail Road has 16 large pieces of snow removal equipment on the rails, including a large spreader-ditcher known as “Darth Vader.” Metro-North Railroad has five cold air blowers and three snow jets – jet engines mounted on rail cars – to clear snow.
· The LIRR may suspend service for the sake of customers and personnel if snow accumulations reach between 10-13 inches. Crews will be out in force to clear tracks and the third rail used to power electric trains.
· LIRR may also run on modified schedule on Friday depending on overnight conditions.
· LIRR waiting rooms will remain open overnight and through the weekend to give customers shelter as they wait for trains.
· The predicted severity of the winter storm will likely require Metro-North to change its scheduled service. As the evening progresses, train service may be reduced or suspended, depending upon weather conditions, to prevent trains from becoming stranded during the storm. Details will be posted at mta.info and sent to MTA customers via email, text message and Twitter.
· The best way to stay informed about railroad, subway and bus status is to subscribe to up-to-the-minute service alerts right from the MTA. Sign up at mymtaalerts.com for email or text messages.
· Several major long-haul bus carriers will cease operations from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to points north of New York City. Travelers are strongly urged to check with their bus carriers before heading to the terminal this evening and tomorrow.
· PATH service is operating normally.
· The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has extended its call center helpline hours beginning today, January 2 until 7:30 p.m., and continuing from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Friday, January 3, and Saturday, January 4 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., if needed, to assist consumers in storm preparation and response efforts. The helpline number is 1-800-342-3377.
· PSC staff will continue to monitor the utilities’ efforts throughout the storm and during the restoration period.
· The electric utilities are prepared to respond to power disruptions throughout the event. In total, approximately 3,800 field workers are available to respond statewide. Additional crews are also available through mutual assistance, if needed.
· The four New York City airports are open, but airlines are operating on a significantly reduced schedule, with more than 412 flights cancelled as of mid-afternoon. Crews are applying anti-icing chemicals to runways and taxiways to keep them free of ice. In the event that some travelers become stranded, airport personnel are preparing cots, blankets and other essentials to assist customers. All air travelers should check with their carriers before traveling to the airport.
· All specialty vehicles in the State Police’s fleet including ATV’s, snowmobiles and four wheel drive vehicles have been prepared for emergency response use. All emergency power and communications equipment has been tested.
· State Police troopers normally assigned to Traffic Incident Management and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement troopers have been re-assigned to patrol duties for this storm.
· State Police will provide staff to any county emergency operations centers that may be activated to help coordinate responses with local agencies.
· The Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services has staff in Emergency Operation Centers to coordinate state and county responses in affected areas.
The National Weather Service has issued the following information based on the combined winter storms:
· Nassau and Suffolk Counties: a Blizzard Warning is in effect from Thursday at 6:00p.m. until Friday at 1:00p.m. Total snowfall accumulations of 6-10 inches are forecast. Sustained winds of 25 to 35mph with gusts to 45 mph are forecast.
· Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond Counties: a Winter Storm Warning in effect from Thursday at 6:00p.m. until Friday at 1:00p.m. Total snowfall accumulations of 6 to 8 inches are forecast. Sustained winds of 15 to 25mph with gusts to 35 mph are forecast.
· Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester Counties: a Winter Storm Warning is also in effect from Thursday at 4:00a.m. until Friday at 10:00a.m. Total snowfall accumulations of 8 to 12 inches are forecast. Sustained winds of 10 to 15mph with gusts to 25mph are expected.
· Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Herkimer, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington Counties: a Winter Storm Warning in effect from tonight at 10:00p.m. until Friday at 10:00a.m. Total snowfall accumulations of 6 to 12 inches are forecast. Sustained winds of 10 to 15mph with gusts to 25mph are expected.
· Jefferson and Lewis Counties: a Wind Chill Warning has been issued until 12:00 p.m. on January 3rd. Winds are expected to be 10 to 20 mph. Wind chill temperatures are expected to be as low as 25 below zero tonight and as low as 35 below zero Thursday night.
· Oswego County: a Winter Storm Warning which is in effect until Friday at 10:00a.m. Total snowfall accumulations of 6 to 12 inches are forecast.
· Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming Counties: a Winter Storm Warning has been issued until January 3rd at 10:00 a.m. Total snowfall accumulations of 4 to 8 inches are forecast.