NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has declared a state of emergency as a major winter storm moves across the New York City metropolitan area.
The State of Emergency covers the following counties: Suffolk, Nassau, Richmond, Kings, Queens, New York, Bronx, Westchester and Rockland.
Cuomo also activated the State Emergency Operations Center to monitor the major winter storm that is expected to bring moderate to heavy snow and strong winds to Long Island, New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley, and usher in extremely cold temperatures statewide.
“This winter storm will bring a one-two punch of snow and extreme cold. I urge all those in the affected regions to exercise caution, and avoid travel if possible,” Governor Cuomo said. “State resources are deployed to clear snow and help those impacted by the storm, but above all it is important that New Yorkers remain safe both during and after the storm.”
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Long Island, New York City, and Westchester and Rockland Counties through 6 a.m. Wednesday. 8-14 inches of snow is expected, and gusty winds will result in blowing and drifting snow and reduced visibility. A Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for Orange and Putnam Counties until 6 a.m. Wednesday, where 4-6 inches of snow is forecast.
In addition, the National Weather Service has posted Wind Chill Warnings through noon tomorrow from the southern Adirondacks to the Delaware River Valley. Wind Chill Advisories are in effect for Western and Central New York, the Southern Tier, and the Capital Region. Temperatures near or below zero combined with moderate winds will create dangerous conditions.
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:
The State has activated 239 plows, 27 front loaders and 428 operators in Long Island, which includes 30 plows and 71 operators deployed from upstate. The state also has private contractors standing by on Long Island to assist with snow removal. In the Hudson Valley, the state has activated 227 plows, 53 front loaders and 491 operators deployed for snow removal operations.
Also, the State 107,000 tons of road salt on-hand for the areas in the path of the storm.
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 MTA urges customers to leave work early today and finish traveling early tonight, especially those who use Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road. The storm has arrived earlier than predicted, bringing higher snow accumulations and stronger wind gusts, raising the prospect of snow drifts of up to two feet. Service on railroads, subways and buses can be curtailed or suspended entirely if snowfall accumulation reaches 10 inches or more. If you do not need to travel tonight, we urge you not to. If you must travel, monitor Service Status at www.mta.info for the most up-to-date information.
Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road are prepared to accommodate customers who leave work early with extra train service, but some trains will be cancelled later in the evening. Some subway lines may suspend express service this evening and run local instead, and service on some outdoor portions of subway lines may need to be curtailed as the storm progresses.
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has extended its call center helpline hours beginning today, January 21 until 7:30 PM, and continuing from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM, Wednesday, January 22, and Thursday, January 23 from 7:30AM to 7:30PM, 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.
All specialty vehicles in the New York State Police’s fleet, including our four wheel drive vehicles, have been prepared for emergency response use. All emergency power and communications equipment has been tested. Extra patrols have been added to assist with any storm related issues. State Police will provide staff to any county emergency operations centers that may be activated to help coordinate responses with local agencies.
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.
NYSDOT provides a travel advisory system that features real-time travel reports and can be accessed by phone at 511 or online at www.511ny.org. 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.
Thruway travelers can find real-time traffic and road condition updates at www.Thruway.ny.gov, can sign up for TRANSAlert emails at http://www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.shtml, or follow @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter. Also for more information and to sign up for free alerts about hazardous travel conditions in your area, go to www.nyalert.gov.
Thruway travelers can also find useful information on the Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) stations which broadcast traffic advisories, road conditions, and safety tips 24-hours-a-day. HAR frequencies can be found at http://www.thruway.ny.gov/travelers/har/index.html.
Governor Cuomo also offered the following safety tips, particularly with the forecasted sub-zero temperatures:
Electric generators can provide you with piece of mind and convenience when there is a temporary loss of electric service during cold weather. Be aware that fire hazards are greatly increased in the winter because alternate heating sources often are used without following proper safety precautions.
Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator:
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 small, home-use portable generators produce 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it and the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Keep children away from generators at all times.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
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.
Prevent Water Pipes from Freezing
To prevent frozen water pipes, follow these tips:
Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers – cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing. Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.
Teach family members how to shut off water valves.
Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
If you plan to be away:
Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or;
Drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).
If Pipes Freeze
Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow minimizes the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
NEVER try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
If You Lose Power
If you lose electrical service during the winter, follow these tips:
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 manufacturer’s 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 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.
When venturing outdoors, wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air between the layers acts as an insulator. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
Always wear a hat or cap on your head – half of the body’s heat can be lost because of an uncovered head.
Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.
Cold temperatures put an extra strain on your heart. Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, can increase the risk of a heart attack. Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors. Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion. If you feel chest pain -- STOP and seek help immediately.
For more information, and a list of essential emergency safety items to keep in your home, visit the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services winter safety page at http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/publicsafety/winter.cfm.