Governor Hochul and Local Authorities Announce Full Travel Ban to Remain in Place for Most of Erie County as Potentially Life-threatening Blizzard-like Conditions Impact Western New York

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Governor Kathy Hochul and local authorities today announced that the full travel ban for passenger and commercial vehicles remains in most of Erie County, but has been lifted in the Towns of Collins, North Collins, Concord, Sardinia, Colden and Holland, as well as in the Villages of North Collins and Springville. Potentially life-threatening, blizzard-like conditions with near-zero visibility continue to impact much of Erie County. All commercial vehicles also remain banned on the New York State Thruway between Exit 46 and the Pennsylvania State Line. While certain areas may appear clear now, the snow bands will continue to oscillate throughout Erie County and conditions could rapidly become dangerous. This ban will be reassessed later in the day on Sunday.

“My top priority is to keep New Yorkers safe, and this winter storm continues to pose a life and safety risk,” Governor Hochul said. “While there are some areas that are no longer experiencing whiteout conditions, much of Erie County remains unsafe for motorists. Please take precautions, monitor local forecasts and take steps to keep you and your family safe.”

New Yorkers in Western New York are being urged to stay home throughout the duration of the storm. Travel in impacted areas will be impossible and dangerous at times throughout the weekend due to life-threatening blizzard-like conditions. New Yorkers are also encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts by subscribing to NY Alert at https://alert.ny.gov, a free service providing critical emergency information to your cell phone or computer.

Heavy lake effect snow will continue off the eastern shores of both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario throughout Sunday, with snowfall rates of two to three inches possible, as well as thundersnow in the heaviest parts of the bands. Winds will begin out of the southwest Sunday morning gusting at 35-40 mph and will increase to 40-50 mph this afternoon. In Western New York, the lake effect band will begin over Niagara and Orleans County in the morning and then move southward into northern Erie County across Buffalo by late morning, reaching the Southtowns in the afternoon. In the North Country, bands will begin in northern Jefferson County and then move south towards Watertown in the afternoon. Tonight, snowfall rates are expected to remain at two to three inches per hour in the heaviest bands, but wind gusts will diminish to 30 mph. IN Western New York, the band is expected to oscillate near or just south of Buffalo for most of the night, while in the North Country, the band is expected to oscillate between the central Tug Hill plateau and Watertown. For a complete listing of weather alerts and forecasts, visit the National Weather Service website at https://alerts.weather.gov.

On Friday, Governor Hochul declared a State of Emergency to warn and prepare New Yorkers for potentially dangerous and life-threatening weather forecasted to impact communities along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario with blizzard-like conditions. The State of Emergency remains in effect and applies to the following counties: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Wyoming.

Warming Shelters

New York State continues to operate warming shelters with cots, pillows, and blankets, as well as mental health counselors at each site for assistance with using facilities. NY National Guard and the New York State Incident Management Team are operating the sites:

  • Erie Community College (South Campus), 4041 Southwestern Blvd, Buffalo, NY 14203
  • Windom Elementary School, 3870 Sheldon Rd, Orchard Park, NY 14127
  • Orchard Park Middle School, 60 South Lincoln Ave, Orchard Park, NY 14127

The City of Buffalo has also opened warming shelters, more information on them can be found here. New York State has provided water and MREs for both state and city warming shelters.

Search and Rescue

New York has surged additional search and rescue resources to Western New York in response to this storm including:

  • 33 State-tracked vehicles
  • 50 4x4s
  • 25 military vehicles

Additional resources are staged outside the storm area ready to deploy if needed, and the state is coordinating with the County to engage the snowmobile clubs for additional assistance as well.

Agency Activities

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

The Division has activated the State’s Emergency Operations Center in Albany to coordinate the State’s response throughout the severe weather event. The Office of Emergency Management is in contact with local counterparts and is prepared to facilitate requests for assistance, and State stockpiles are staffed and ready to deploy emergency response assets and shelter supplies as needed.

The State Fire Mobilization and Mutual Aid Plan is activated and the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control has 24 personnel and various types of emergency response vehicles staged at the Buffalo Airport. The New York State Incident Management Team was deployed to Western New York in advance of the storm to assist with emergency management-related tasks.

Division of Military and Naval Affairs

The New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs is mobilizing 100 Soldiers and Airmen with 25 vehicles from the New York National Guard to provide general support to Western New York.

New York State Department of Transportation

The State Department of Transportation is actively responding to this statewide weather event with more than 3,700 operators and supervisors available statewide. Staff can be configured into any type of response crews that are needed (flood response, chipper, load & haul, sewer jet, cut & toss, traffic signal, etc.). All residencies in impacted locations will remain staffed for 24/7 operations with operators, supervisors, and mechanics throughout the duration of the event and priority cleanup operations.

In addition to existing resources, the Department has deployed 74 staff, including 54 additional operators, 11 supervisors, six equipment trainers, two Incident Command Support specialists and one safety representative to Western New York, along with 25 large snowplows, three large snowblowers, two loaders and a grader. Additionally, four traffic signal technicians are being deployed to the Finger Lakes region.

Statewide assets are as follows:

  • 1,599 large plows
  • 337 loaders
  • 148 medium plows
  • 82 wheeled and tracked excavators
  • 52 tow plows
  • 37 snow blowers
  • 32 traffic signal trucks
  • 23 pickup trucks with plows
  • 20 graders
  • 13 tree crew bucket trucks

For real-time travel information, motorists should call 511 or visit https://www.511ny.org or the mobile site at m.511ny.org, New York State’s official traffic and travel information source.

Thruway Authority

Thruway Authority staff are actively engaged in snow and ice activities and responding to the lake effect storm with more than 700 operators and supervisors available statewide. The Authority shifted additional staff and snow fighting equipment from the Syracuse, Albany, and New York Divisions to support snow and ice operations in Western New York throughout the weekend. Staff is currently monitoring the storm track and additional operators and equipment are on standby and will be deployed if conditions warrant.

Statewide equipment numbers and resources are listed below:

  • 364 large and medium duty plow trucks
  • 10 tow plows
  • 64 loaders
  • Approximately 120,000 tons of salt on hand

Variable Message Signs 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 for free on iPhone and Android devices. The app provides motorists direct access to real-time traffic information, live traffic cameras, and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert e-mails and follow @ThruwayTraffic on X for the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway.

Department of Public Service

Electric utility companies regulated by the Department of Public Service have approximately 11,400 workers available statewide to engage in response, repair and restoration efforts for this weekend’s winter weather event. This includes the following additional external contract workers who remained in the State after finishing their work related to the earlier in the week storm.

Resource breakdowns for this winter weather event are as follows:

  • NYSEG and RG&E have 4,798 workers available, including 3,030 external line workers and 436 external tree workers.
  • National Grid has 4,362 workers available, including 2,069 external line workers and 382 external tree workers.
  • Con Edison has 750 workers available including 100 external contract line workers, assigned to their Bronx/Westchester Operating Division.
  • Orange & Rockland has 270 workers available for the weekend weather event.
  • Central Hudson has 135 workers.
  • PSEGLI has 1,134 workers available

The utilities’ emergency response plans and incident command structures are activated to track response, damage assessment, repair, and restoration efforts throughout the event. DPS staff continues to track utilities’ work throughout the event and ensure utility companies shift appropriate staffing to regions that experience the greatest impact. If your service is interrupted, visit the DPS Utility Service Interruptions website for tips.

New York State Police

State Police continues to monitor weather conditions and is deploying additional Troopers to impacted areas as needed. All State Police four-wheel drive and specialized vehicles, including snowmobiles, airboats, and utility terrain vehicles are staged and necessary equipment is being utilized for immediate response as needed. All emergency power and communications equipment are functioning appropriately.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

DEC Emergency Management staff, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, Forest Rangers, and regional staff remain on alert and continue to monitor the developing situation and weather forecasts. DEC is coordinating resource deployment with agency partners and all available assets to targeted areas in preparation for potential impacts due to rain, snow, and high winds, including swift water rescue teams and sawyers.

DEC reminds those responsible for the removal and disposal of snow to follow best management practices to help prevent flooding and reduce the potential for pollutants like salt, sand, oils, trash, and other debris in snow from affecting water quality. Disposal of snow in local creeks and streams can create ice dams which may cause flooding in nearby areas. Public and private snow removal operators should be aware of these safety issues during and after winter storms. Additional information is available at https://extapps.dec.ny.gov/docs/water_pdf/togs5111new.pdf.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York State Park Police and park personnel are on alert and closely monitoring weather conditions and impacts. Response equipment is being fueled, tested, and prepared for storm response use. State Parks has sawyer crews in Western New York and the North Country on standby for deployment for potential road clearing operations.

Safety Tips

Winter Weather

  • Service snow removal equipment. Use rock salt to melt ice on walkways, and sand to generate traction.
  • Winterize your home and have heating sources inspected annually.
  • If you use heating oil, maintain an adequate supply.
  • Have safe, emergency heating equipment available and use according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Install and check smoke alarms.
  • Protect water pipes from freezing.

Traveling in Winter Weather

Some of the most important tips for safe driving include:

  • Do not drive unless necessary.
  • If you must travel, make sure your car is stocked with survival gear 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.
  • If you have a cell phone or other communications device such as a 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.
  • The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents. Before getting behind the wheel, make sure that your vehicle is clear of ice and snow; good vision is key to good driving. Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars. Be extra alert and remember that snowdrifts can hide smaller children. Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.
  • It is important for motorists on all roads 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 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 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. Never attempt to pass a snowplow while its operating.

Power Outages

Planning

  • If you use medication that requires refrigeration, most can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem – check with your physician or pharmacist.
  • If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic containers with water, leaving an inch of space inside each one –this will help keep food cold if the power goes out.
  • Plan to have an alternative cooking source, such as a camp stove or outdoor grill. Follow appropriate safety rules for its use outside the residence.
  • Consider buying a generator and follow the rules for using it outside the residence. Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Have extra blankets, coats, hats, and gloves on hand to keep warm.
  • If you have a computer, back up files and operating systems regularly. Turn off all computers, monitors, and other devices when they are not being used.
  • If you have an electric garage door opener, locate the manual release level, and learn how to operate.
  • If you have a telephone instrument or system that requires electricity to work, plan for alternate communication such as a standard tele-phone handset, cellular telephone, or radio.

What to Do If the Power Goes Out

  • Turn off or disconnect major appliances and other equipment, e.g., computers, in case of a momentary power surge that can damage these devices. Keep one light turned on so you know when power returns. Consider using surge protectors wherever you use electronic equipment.
  • Call your utility provider to notify them of the outage and listen to local broadcasts for official information. Check with your utility to determine area repair schedules.
  • Check to see if neighbors and those with access or functional needs have power.
  • Use only flashlights for emergency lighting – candles pose the risk of fire.
  • Keep refrigerators and freezer doors closed – most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for several hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately four (4) hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Do not use a charcoal grill indoors and do not use a gas stove for heat – they could give off harmful levels of carbon monoxide.
  • Stay warm by dressing in layers and minimizing time spent outdoors. Be aware of cold stress symptoms (i.e., hypothermia) and seek proper medical attention if symptoms appear.
  • Close off rooms you do not need.

To Report an Electric Outage, Call:

  • Central Hudson: 800-527-2714
  • Con Edison: 800-752-6633
  • National Grid: 800-867-5222
  • NYSEG: 800-572-1131
  • O&R: 877-434-4100
  • PSEG-LI: 800-490-0075
  • RG&E: 800-743-1701

Heating Safety

  • Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters.
  • When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • 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.

Flooding

Planning

  • Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry.
  • Keep your vehicle fueled or charged. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.
  • Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.
  • Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency waterproofing.

Travel Safety

  • Flooding and damaging winds can make traveling dangerous.
  • Never attempt to drive on a flooded road – go another way. Remember: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.”
    • Six inches of swiftly moving water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle or knock you off your feet if walking.
    • Do not underestimate the power of fast-moving water. Two feet of fast-moving flood water will float your car and water moving at two miles per hour can sweep cars off a road or bridge.
    • If water begins to rise rapidly around you in your car, abandon the vehicle immediately.
    • If water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof. Do not drive around road barriers.

For more winter safety tips, visit https://dhses.ny.gov/safety. For all non-emergency service needs in New York State before, during or after a storm, call 211 or visit 211nys.org.

About the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) provides leadership, coordination, and support to prevent, protect against, prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate disasters and other emergencies. For more information, follow @NYSDHSES on Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly known as Twitter) or visit dhses.ny.gov.





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