Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today urged drivers across Western New York, the Finger Lakes, Central New York, North Country and the Capital Region to plan ahead and drive with caution, as a Lake Effect storm system brings heavy snow, followed by gusty winds and dropping temperatures to the State today during peak holiday travel times through Wednesday.
Heavy snow is expected and winds could bring down limbs and power lines, causing scattered power outages. Total snow accumulations of up to three feet are expected in the most persistent lake snows in Southern Erie County and Wyoming Counties and the western Southern Tier. Winds gusting to as high as 45 miles per hour will cause areas of significant blowing and drifting snow.
Governor Cuomo directed the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services' Watch Center to operate in an enhanced monitoring mode and directed all state agencies to take precautionary measures and stand ready to mobilize personnel to respond to the storm.
"This holiday weekend, I urge everyone traveling to use extra caution and be prepared for hazardous weather," Governor Cuomo said. "Give yourself some extra time to get where you're going, let someone know when you leave and when you are expected to arrive, and monitor weather and travel conditions to avoid lengthy delays or dangerous situations."
Current Weather Forecast
A storm system will bring a widespread general snowfall to Western New York, the Finger Lakes, and Central New York regions Sunday night, followed by falling temperatures and significant lake effect snows east of the Lake Erie and Ontario from Christmas Day right on through midweek. Heavy lake effect snow expected with accumulations of more than 2 feet off both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Strong winds causing near blizzard conditions at times will make travel very difficult, including on Christmas Day, as well as the back to work morning commute on Tuesday.
Lake effect snow warnings have been issued for east of both lakes through the day Wednesday for snows that will total roughly three feet along and just east of the Chautauqua Ridge and nearly four feet for portions of the Tug Hill plateau. Travel will be very difficult to impossible at times from heavy blowing and drifting snow.
In the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier, a quick-hitting winter storm will produce a few to several inches of snow across the area late this evening through Christmas morning. Periods of heavy lake effect snow continue Monday afternoon through Wednesday, Winds will abruptly pick up Christmas morning, with strong gusts through the day causing blowing and drifting of new fallen snow and perhaps a few power outages. Lake effect snow develops Christmas, persisting all the way through Wednesday, especially north of the New York State Thruway. Northern Oneida County will end up with 15 to 30 inches of snow.
State Agency Preparations
Department of Transportation
The New York State Department of Transportation is ready to respond with more than 1,575 large plow/dump trucks, 207 medium plow/dump trucks, 324 loaders, 38 truck/loader mounted snow blowers, 50 tow plows, 19 graders and 14 pickup trucks with plows. The DOT also has nearly 389,000 tons of road salt on hand. DOT continues to monitor weather forecasts and stands ready to shift resources as necessary to any areas of the state anticipating significant weather conditions.
Governor Cuomo recently announced the State Department of Transportation's acquisition of 44 Two-Stage Plows that clear snow and ice from the roads more efficiently. A second plow located directly behind the main plow blade will conform to the road surface, removing more snow to better clean the road surface and allow for reduced salt usage. The new plows will be located strategically across the State and will be used at targeted locations where less salt use is preferred due to environmental factors.
Motorists are reminded to check 511NY by calling 511, or visiting www.511ny.org before traveling. The free service allows users to check road conditions and transit information. Mobile users can download the free 511NY mobile app from the iTunes or Google Play stores. The app 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 Thruway Authority's winter weather preparations include 24-hour staff availability for maintenance personnel, snow removal equipment ready for deployment, and ample salt and fuel supplies to keep the roadways clear and safe.
The New York State Thruway Authority has 660 supervisors and operators ready to deploy 243 Large Snow Plows, 113 Medium Snow Plows, 54 Loaders and 10 Tow Plows across the state with more than 112,600 tons of road salt on hand. Variable Message Signs, Highway Advisory Radio and social media are utilized to alert motorists of winter weather conditions on the Thruway.
The Thruway Authority encourages motorists to download its mobile app which is available to download for free on iPhone and Android devices. The app provides motorists direct access to real-time traffic and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert e-mails which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway by following this link:www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.shtml. For real-time updates, motorists can follow @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or by visiting www.thruway.ny.gov to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions for the Thruway and other New York State roadways.
Snowplows travel at about 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. The safest place for motorists is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted.
The New York State Police is fully staffed for the storm, and will be closely monitoring road conditions in order to move patrols to affected areas as necessary. All 4X4 vehicles, snowmobiles, and other equipment have been tested and are ready for deployment.
Governor Cuomo offered the following safety tips to prepare for winter travel:
Travel with Care
Preparing your vehicle 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:
Wipers and windshield washer fluid
Flashing hazard lights
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.
Finally, plan long trips carefully. Listen to the local media report or call law enforcement agencies for the latest road conditions.
The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents.
Give yourself extra time to arrive at your destination. Make sure your car is stocked with emergency items 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
As you drive:
Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.
Keep your vehicle clear of ice and snow - good vision is key to good driving.
Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars.
Remember that snowdrifts can hide smaller children
If you lose power:
Call your utility first to determine area repair schedules. Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
To help prevent freezing pipes, turn on faucets slightly. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage
Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
Do not operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
Do not use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
Do not use your gas oven to heat your home -- prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
Run generators outside, downwind of structures. NEVER run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generators exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces. Install a carbon monoxide detector.
Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most of the small, home-use portable generators produce from 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it, the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Keep children away from generators at all times.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States. Such common items as automotive exhaust, home heating systems and obstructed chimneys can produce the colorless, odorless gas. The gas can also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other items used for cooking and heating when used improperly during the winter months.
Never run generators indoors. Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater.
Never use charcoal to cook indoors.
Never use a gas oven to heat your home.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.
Always keep a screen around an open flame.
Never use gasoline to start your fireplace.
Never burn charcoal indoors.
Do not close the damper when ashes are hot.
When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation. Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
Have your chimney checked before the season for creosote buildup - and then clean it.
Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors, and make sure they work. Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Use only the correct fuel for your unit.
Refuel outdoors only and only when the unit is cool.
Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.