Governor Hochul to Declare State of Emergency Ahead of Intense Lake Effect Snow

Several Feet of Snow Expected in Buffalo and Watertown Areas Starting Wednesday Evening and Continuing Through Sunday

Storm Expected to Cause Hazardous Travel Conditions and Potential Power Outages Resulting from Snow, Freezing Rain and Gusty Winds

New Yorkers Urged to Avoid Unnecessary Travel Thursday Evening Through Friday in Buffalo and Watertown Areas Due to Dangerous Conditions

Beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, All Commercial Traffic Banned on NYS Thruway (I-90) from Exit 46 (Rochester - I-390) to Exit 61 (Ripley - Shortman Rd)

State Agencies Directed to Prepare Emergency Response Asset

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced her plans to issue a State of Emergency Thursday morning ahead of a winter storm forecast to impact portions of upstate New York with intense lake effect snow through Sunday. The most significant snowfall is expected Thursday and Friday with accumulations of up to three feet of snow possible in the Buffalo area and up to two feet of snow possible in the Watertown area, with snowfall rates of three inches per hour. Hazardous travel conditions and local power outages as a result of the storm are likely due to the combination of snow, ice and wind in the forecast. Governor Hochul urged New Yorkers to stay alert and avoid unnecessary travel in the Buffalo and Watertown areas Thursday evening through Friday.

"Parts of Western New York, the Finger Lakes, Central New York and the North Country are about to get their first snowstorm of the season, which means we need everyone in these impacted regions to be ready for dangerous travel conditions," Governor Hochul said. "My team and I are deploying emergency response assets ahead of the storm, remain in constant contact with local officials, and are laser focused on the forecast. New Yorkers should remain vigilant ahead of the storm and avoid any unnecessary travel during these hazardous conditions."

Lake Effect Snow Warning and Winter Storm Watches are in effect as of Wednesday morning and continuing through Sunday evening for several counties in the Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York and North Country regions. As of Wednesday, the National Weather Service forecast anticipates several feet of snow over the duration of this storm.

For a complete listing of weather watches and warnings in your area, visit your area's National Weather Service website.

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "Despite the unseasonably warm weather of late, winter is here across upstate New York. Do not underestimate this storm. We expect snow to be intense at times creating dangerous conditions, and significant accumulation to occur over the event. Now is the time to get prepared and have a plan. New Yorkers in the affected area who must travel later this week, should take it slow and build in extra time for your commute. And we should all check on our neighbors, particularly vulnerable neighbors, to help them prepare for winter weather in the forecast."

Agency Preparations

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is closely monitoring weather and travel conditions, coordinating State agency response operations, and communicating with local governments ahead of the event.

The State Office of Emergency Management's Emergency Operations Center will be activated on Thursday and the State's stockpiles are prepared to deploy assets to localities to support any storm-related needs.

The State Office of Fire Prevention and Control will be preparing vehicles, UTVs and equipment for deployment and will respond to mutual aid requests, as needed.

Department of Transportation

The State Department of Transportation is prepared to respond with 3,287 supervisors and operators.  Staff can be configured into any type of response crew that is required, including snow and ice operations, drainage, chipper, load and haul, and cut and toss. Additionally, 75 Incident Command System (ICS) personnel are available to support the upcoming event.

To support lake effect snow response in critical areas, a total of 106 staff from other regions, including 92 plow truck operators/supervisors, 11 equipment operator instructors, one assistant resident engineer, one safety representative, and one ICS support staff member are being deployed on Wednesday as follows:

Western NY/Buffalo:

Personnel Deployments (83):

  1. 70 operators
  2. 7 supervisors
  3. 4 equipment operator instructors
  4. 1 assistant regional engineer
  5. 1 ICS support staff

Equipment Deployments (25):

  1. 15 large plow trucks
  2. 6 medium duty plow trucks
  3. 4 skid-steer mounted snow blowers

Finger Lakes/Rochester:

Personnel Deployments (17):

  1. 10 operators
  2. 2 supervisors
  3. 4 equipment operator instructors
  4. 1 safety representative

North Country/Watertown:

Personnel Deployments (6):

  1. 3 Operators
  2. 3 equipment operator instructors

All out of region resources will be in place by Wednesday afternoon or evening. The need for additional resources and equipment will continue to be re-evaluated as conditions warrant throughout the event.

All residency locations will remain staffed for 24/7 operations throughout the duration of the event and priority cleanup operations. All available snow and ice equipment is ready to deploy. 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:

  • 1522 large plow trucks
  • 140 medium duty plows
  • 50 tow plows
  • 329 large loaders
  • 38 snowblowers

The State Department of Transportation is implementing a full commercial vehicle ban at the following locations beginning Thursday at 4 p.m.

  • Interstate 190 - Route 62 to I-90
  • Interstate 290 - full length
  • Interstate 990 - full length
  • Route 33 - full length
  • Route 219 - Route 39 to I-90
  • Route 400 - full length
  • Buffalo Skyway Route 5 - full length
  • I-81 - Exit 33 to Canadian border - trucks use right lane only

To find the latest traffic and travel conditions, call 511, visit or download the free 511NY mobile app. The online system and mobile app include a state road map, indicating which roads are experiencing snow conditions and where conditions are normal.

Thruway Authority

Thruway Authority personnel are closely monitoring the forecast for the upcoming lake effect storm and are ready to respond with 657 operators and supervisors statewide. Thruway is also shifting and deploying additional staff and equipment from its Syracuse and New York Divisions to support snow and ice operations in the potentially hardest hit areas in Western New York. Deployed resources include operators and supervisors, large plow trucks, and large snowblowers.

Additionally, Thruway Emergency Operations Centers will be staffed in Buffalo and Headquarters for the duration of the storm to assist with managing snow and ice operations, traffic incident response, emergency management, and real-time traveler information.

Thruway statewide equipment numbers and resources are listed below:

  • 346 large and medium duty plow trucks
  • nine tow plows
  • 66 loaders
  • More than 132,000 tons of salt on hand

Variable Message Signs and social media are utilized to alert motorists of winter weather conditions on the Thruway.

Beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, all commercial traffic will be banned on the New York State Thruway (I-90) from exit 46 (Rochester I-390) to the Pennsylvania border.  ALL commercial traffic heading eastbound on the Thruway must exit at exit 61 (Ripley - Shortman Rd).

Commercial traffic heading westbound on the Thruway towards Pennsylvania from points east, should use exit 46 (Rochester - I-390) for I-390 to I-86 West.

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 which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway. You can follow the Thruway Authority on Twitter: @ThruwayTraffic and @NYSThruway and on Facebook at NYS Thruway Authority.

Department of Environmental Conservation

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers, Forest Rangers, Emergency Management staff and regional staff are on alert and monitoring the developing situation and actively patrolling areas and infrastructure impacted by severe weather. All available assets are positioned to assist with any emergency response.

DEC is advising backcountry users to be aware of and prepared for winter conditions. Winter hiking safety and preparedness are extremely important regardless of a hiker's physical ability or destination. Properly preparing for winter conditions is essential for a more enjoyable and safer experience. Additional information on winter hiking is available here.

DEC reminds those responsible for the large-scale removal and disposal of snow to follow best management practices to help reduce the potential for pollutants like salt, sand, oils, trash and other debris in snow from affecting water quality. More information is available here.

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. Park visitors should check or call their local park office for the latest updates regarding park hours, openings, and closings.

Department of Public Service

New York's utilities have approximately 5,730 workers now available statewide to engage in damage assessment, response, repair, and restoration efforts across New York State, in preparation for the latest weather system. In the National Grid service territory in Western New York, a total of 230 additional workers have been secured. DPS staff will track utilities' work throughout the event and ensure utilities shift appropriate staffing to regions that experience the greatest impact.

State Police

The State Police is adding extra patrols to the areas that will be most impacted by the lake effect snow, and will also be staging additional specialty vehicles, including utility task vehicles and snowmobiles, in those regions. All four-wheel drive vehicles will be deployed, and troop emergency power and communications equipment has been tested.

Winter Safety Tips 

Winter Travel

Some of the most important tips for safe driving include:

  • When winter storms strike, do not drive unless necessary.
  • Use caution on bridges as ice can form quicker than on roads.
  • 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.

Heavy Exertion

Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, increase the risk of a heart attack.

To avoid problems:

  • Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.
  • Take frequent rests to avoid over-exertion
  • If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your jaw radiating down your arm -- STOP and seek help immediately.

Power Outages

  • 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

Heating Safety

  • 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 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

For more safety tips, visit


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