Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today (Nov. 18) declared a state of emergency for the following counties as a severe winter storm continues to bring snowfall across the state: Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Franklin, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, Wyoming, and contiguous counties.
The storm, which has already brought significant amounts of snow to Western New York and the North Country beginning Monday afternoon into Tuesday, is expected to continue through at least Thursday evening, reaching into Central New York.
As part of the State of Emergency, Governor Cuomo deployed the National Guard to affected areas Tuesday afternoon and activated statewide Emergency Operations Centers at 8 p.m. Monday.
Staffing at the center includes personnel from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, New York State Police, Thruway Authority, Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation and the Public Service Commission.
“New York is experiencing yet another severe winter storm, and I am declaring a State of Emergency in counties that have been or will be affected to help communities as they experience a substantial amount of snowfall,” Governor Cuomo said. “This storm may persist until Friday morning with the potential for another two feet of snow. New Yorkers in these areas should exercise extreme caution, and stay off the roads until conditions are clearer and safer.”
Under a State of Emergency, critical resources that are normally restricted to State use are mobilized to assist local governments and laws and regulations that would otherwise impede their rapid response may be suspended.
Steps taken to ensure readiness include:
Roads and Bridges
· The State has activated 526 plows, 74 large loaders, 1,247 operators and supervisors, 17 large snow blowers, and 4 truck-mounted snow blowers in affected regions.
· The State is fully stocked road salt on-hand for the areas in the path of the storm.
· All Thruway and New York State Department of Transportation maintenance headquarters will be fully staffed around the clock for the duration of the storm.
Currently, there are about 9,537 New Yorkers without power, and to help with this, the New York State Public Service Commission will extend its call center helpline hours. They began Tuesday, November 18 until 7:30 PM, and continue from 7:30 AM through 7:30 PM November 19, as needed, to assist consumers in storm preparation and response efforts. The helpline number is 1-800-342-3377.
Public Service Commission 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.
The Division of State Police has had contact with all regional Troop Commanders to ensure that resources and staffing patterns have been identified for the storm. Troop Emergency Management personnel have been pre-designated to staff open county Emergency Operation Centers. Weather related incident reporting procedures are in place for the duration of the storm. State Police continue to closely monitor road closures and restrictions with the Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority.
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and State Police will provide staff to any county emergency operations centers that may be activated to help coordinate responses with local agencies.
Governor Cuomo recommends the following tips to citizens that reside in the storm affected regions:
Some of the most important tips for safe winter driving include:
· Never follow a snowplow too closely or attempt to pass one. Remember that the highway ahead of the plow is usually snow-covered;
· Adjust speed for road conditions and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles;
· Schedule extra time for winter travel and be patient during ice and snow removal operations;
· Assume that bridge surfaces are slippery, as they freeze more quickly than road surfaces;
· Be wary of black ice, which can be difficult to see but makes conditions slippery when pavement temperatures are below freezing;
· Have a cell phone handy, if possible, but do not text while driving; distracted driving is illegal and becomes even more dangerous during storm events;
· Never venture from your vehicle if snowbound;
· Equip your car with emergency supplies including sand, shovel, flares, booster cables, rope, ice scraper, portable radio, flashlight, blankets and extra warm clothes;
· Inform a responsible person of your destination, intended route, and estimated time of arrival; and
· Keep calm and do not panic in case of a vehicle breakdown, accident, or if you become snowbound.
If You Lose Power:
· First, call your utility 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 when power has been restored.
· If heat goes out during a winter storm, keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.
· Alternative Heating Safety Tips
Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturers instructions.
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 a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors and make sure they work.
If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:
· Follow the manufacturers’ 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.
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, visithttp://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.