Cuomo urges caution as lake effect snow moves across region

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today urged New Yorkers in Western New York, the Finger Lakes and the North Country to prepare for lake-effect snow moving across the state today into Friday. New Yorkers in these upstate regions should expect to see bands of lake-effect snow extending along a line from downtown Buffalo through the eastern suburbs and into much of Genesee County today. Snow totals will range from 4 to 7 inches with winds gusting over 30 mph resulting in poor visibility.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect until 1 a.m. Friday for the Tug Hill and Watertown area where snow accumulations of 8 to 12 inches are expected. Winds gusting as high as 35 mph will produce blowing snow and make travel extremely difficult. Drivers are being urged to travel with extreme caution as the system has the potential to create difficult road conditions.

“With winter weather moving across portions of upstate New York today and tonight, I urge New Yorkers to be prepared and use caution when driving during reduced visibility and high winds,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are actively monitoring these weather systems and are prepared to deploy additional resources and assist our local partners as needed.”

According to the National Weather Service, the first of two cold fronts will push across upstate New York late this afternoon to early this evening, resulting in slick roadways across the region. Snow showers are likely tonight in the Buffalo area before midnight, resulting in an inch or less of additional accumulation. Towns south of Buffalo could see 1 to 3 inches of additional accumulation overnight. Approximately 2 to 4 additional inches of snow is forecast in the traditional snow belt areas of southern Erie County and the western Southern Tier.

Moderate to locally heavy lake snows will be ongoing Thursday evening east of the lakes, likely positioned across the towns south of Buffalo and southwestern area off Lake Erie. The intensity of the lake snows should lessen through Thursday night. Overnight temperatures are forecast in the low to mid-20s, but gusty winds could make it feel in the teens.

For a complete listing of weather watches, warnings, advisories and latest forecasts, visit the National Weather Service website.

Safety in Extreme Cold

Dress for the Season

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 since half of your body heat could be lost through 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.

Physical Exertion

Winter storm conditions and cold waves are the deadliest types of weather as 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.

To avoid problems, remember these tips:

• 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.

Hypothermia

Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, especially in children and the elderly. Watch for these symptoms:

• Inability to concentrate

• Poor coordination

• Slurred speech

• Drowsiness

• Exhaustion

• Uncontrollable shivering, followed by a sudden lack of shivering

If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, get emergency medical assistance immediately. Remove wet clothing, wrap the victim in warm blankets and give warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquids until help arrives.

Frostbite

People working or playing outdoors during the winter can develop frostbite and not even know it. There is no pain associated with the early stages of frostbite, so learn to watch for these danger signs:

First, the skin may feel numb and become flushed. Then it turns white or grayish-yellow. Frostbitten skin feels cold to the touch.

If frostbite is suspected, move the victim to a warm area. Cover the affected area with something warm and dry. Never rub it! Then get to a doctor or hospital as quickly as possible.

Safe 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.

• Wet leaves on roadways can cause slippery conditions, making it important to drive at slower speeds when approaching patches of them.

• If you must travel, make sure your car is stocked with survival gear like blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, a set of tire chains, battery booster cables, quick energy foods and brightly colored cloth to use as a distress flag.

• Do not attempt to drive over flooded roads; turn around and go another way. Water moving at two mph can sweep cars off a road or bridge.

• Watch for areas where rivers or streams may suddenly rise and flood, such as highway dips, bridges and low areas.

• If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.

Additionally, the leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents. Before getting behind the wheel, ensure 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, snowdrifts can hide smaller children. Moreover, always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.

It’s 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.

Agency Preparations

The State Department of Transportation responds to storms with nearly 1,600 large dump trucks, 52 tow plows and hundreds of other pieces of equipment, including snow blowers, smaller plow trucks, loaders and graders. This equipment, as well as nearly 3,700 operators and supervisors, are deployed across the state as necessary in advance of winter storms to help keep roads safe.

Motorists are reminded to check 511NY before traveling at www.511NY.org or by downloading the mobile app. The free service allows users to check road conditions and features a winter travel advisory system with real-time travel reports and a color-coded map indicating which state roads are clear, wet or snow covered. The system provides motorists with a helpful resource to determine if travel is advisable.

The Thruway Authority has 645 supervisors and operators ready to deploy 239 Large Snow Plows, 126 Medium Snow Plows, 11 Tow Plows and 57 Loaders across the state with more than 115,000 tons of road salt on hand. Variable Message Signs, Highway Advisory Radio and social media are 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 here.