The state is advising residents to prepare for difficult driving conditions, heavy snow and frigid temperatures as a winter storm gets ready to sock the region later today.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued the warning late Sunday as a cold front heading straight for the state is expected to bring almost a foot of snow to some areas of New York. "This impending snowstorm could be problematic and cause dangerous conditions across the state, so I urge New Yorkers to be prepared and use caution when driving," Cuomo said. "State agencies are watching the weather system and stand ready to assist our local partners if needed."
The weather event was expected to begin this morning with rain, which will turn to snow by mid-afternoon. Travel could be very difficult across northern portions of the Capital Region, and throughout Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, and Western New York, the governor's office said, adding that areas north of the state Thruway could see between 8 and 12 inches of snow.
Rapidly-dropping temperatures and heavy snowfall will result in slick, snow-covered roads and treacherous driving conditions, Cuomo warned. During the changeover from rain to snow, there could also be periods of freezing rain and sleet, officials said. The National Weather Service in Binghamton has issued a winter storm warning for most of the region and is predicting between 4 to 8 inches of snow for the Mohawk Valley between this afternoon and 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The winter storm is striking just as portions of the area and the North Country are trying to recover from recent flooding. Because of the winter storm, the state Disaster Assistance Service Centers at SUNY Poly in Marcy; the Whitesboro Fire Department and the Frankfort Town Hall will close on Monday 1 p.m. They will reopen at noon on Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. Tuesday is the last scheduled day of operation for the temporary disaster centers.
According to the National Weather Service, a cold front started pushing south across upstate New York late Sunday evening with light rain across much of the state and snow across higher elevations. Starting today, the snow was expected to increase in intensity in Western and Central New York and the Finger Lakes region.
Snow will become more widespread through tonight as the front moves across the Mohawk Valley and North Country. Snow will taper off by early Tuesday for most of the state, followed by very cold temperatures and some limited lake effect snow southeast of the Great Lakes through Wednesday.
The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services' Emergency Operations Center had already activated to Level Four status to assist with coordination of state assets in response to the Halloween 2019 storms upstate. The State EOC will continue to monitor weather conditions and stay in contact with localities throughout the duration of the storm. State stockpiles are prepared to deploy assets to localities affected by storm-related needs, including pumps, chainsaws, sandbags and bottled water, officials said.
Officials added that the state Department of Transportation is ready to respond with 3,450 supervisors and operators available. Regional crews are currently engaged in snow and ice preparations and rain event monitoring. All residency locations will be staffed for 24/7 operation throughout the duration of the event, the governor's office said.
All available snow and ice equipment is ready to deploy, official said, adding that fleet mechanics in affected areas will be staffing all main residency locations 24/7 to perform repairs and keep trucks on the road. Statewide equipment numbers are as follows: 1581 large plow trucks; 182 medium-duty plows; 51 tow plows; 327 large loaders and 39 snow blowers. To support snow and ice activities in critical areas, a total of 16 large dump trucks, eight plow operators, two mechanics and one mechanic service truck are being deployed.
The Thruway Authority has 646 supervisors and operators ready to deploy 209 large snow plows; 100 medium snow plows; 10 tow plows and 56 loaders across the state with more than 128,000 tons of road salt on hand. Variable message signs, highway advisory radio and social media will be utilized to alert motorists of winter weather conditions on the Thruway.
The Thruway Authority is also encouraging motorists to download its mobile app which is available 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.
The state police will closely monitor conditions for any problems, officials said, adding that troopers are ready to deploy additional personnel to affected areas as needed. All four-wheel drive vehicles are in-service and all specialty vehicles, including snowmobiles and utility vehicles, are staged and ready for deployment, officials added.
Meanwhile DEC police officers, forest rangers, emergency management staff, and regional staff are on alert and monitoring the developing situation and actively patrolling areas likely to be impacted by the storm.
The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is advising residents to use caution in connection to the winter storm expected to hit the region this afternoon into Tuesday morning.
Here is a list of safety tips for residents to deal with the impending storm:
When winter storms strike, do not drive unless necessary;
Use caution on bridges as ice can form quicker than on roads;
Wet leaves on roadways can cause slippery conditions, making it important to drive at slower speeds when approaching patches of them;
Make sure your car is stocked with 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 help 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;
While driving, keep vehicles clear of ice and snow;
Plan stops and keep distance between cars. Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions. It's important to note that snowplows travel at speeds up to 35 mph, which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit, to ensure that salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off theroadways. 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 lines of sight, and the size and weight of snowplows can 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 to drive is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted.
For more winter weather safety information, visit the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info.