Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed activation of New York State’s Emergency Operations Center as bands of heavy, lake effect snow of up to two feet are expected to continue through early Wednesday in Western New York and the Watertown region. The National Weather Service has issued Lake Effect Snow Warnings, and says strong winds will cause blowing and drifting snow, which could reduce visibility to near zero.
"As heavy snow falls on parts of the state, we are ensuring that resources will be made available to keep residents safe and clean up after the snow,” Governor Cuomo said. "Travel will be difficult and dangerous, and although New Yorkers should avoid unnecessary trips, I urge those who must drive to exercise great caution."
The New York State Department of Transportation will be moving 8 additional plows and 36 operators and supervisors from around the state to Western New York to assist with snow removal operations. They will have a total of 410 snowplows and 1,018 operators and supervisors working on this storm. The Department is fully stocked with road salt.
The New York State Thruway Authority has a total of 200 plow operators and supervisors working on the storm, with 97 plow trucks, 18 front end loaders, one large truck-mounted snow blower and 37,000 tons of salt. The Thruway Authority is also moving the following additional equipment and personnel to western New York: nine heavy duty plow trucks, two front end loaders and two large snow blowers, as well as nine plow operators.
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 in order 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 sight distances, and the size and weight of snowplows 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 is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted.
The New York State Department of Transportation provides a travel advisory system that features real-time travel reports and can be accessed by dialing 511, online at www.511ny.org, or via a downloadable smart phone app. The web site features a color-coded map indicating which state roads are snow covered, ice covered, wet, dry, or closed to help travelers determine if travel is advisable. The system provides real-time snow and ice conditions for interstates and other heavily traveled roads, as reported by snowplow operators.
Motorists can sign up for TRANSAlert emails regarding Thruway traffic conditions at http://www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.shtml. Thruway travelers are encouraged to visit www.Thruway.ny.gov for real-time traffic updates. To see an interactive map including Google traffic conditions for the Thruway and other roadways in New York State and beyond, visit http://www.thruway.ny.gov/travelers/map/index.html?layer=traffic.
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services also recommends that residents should prepare their homes and families for winter weather. This includes stocking up on supplies in the event a winter storm or power outage prevents you from leaving your home. Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs to see if they are in need of assistance. Additional safety tips can be found on the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/publicsafety/winter.cfm.