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Thursday, January 8, 2015

A lake effect storm expected to hit the Buffalo area tonight caused the governor's office to announce the closure of the New York State Thruway beginning at 9 p.m. for tractor trailers and midnight for all traffic.

The storm is expected to bring heavy snow, high winds, and bitter cold temperatures, dropping 2 to 3 feet of snow south and east of Buffalo, and at least 3 feet of snow north of Syracuse through Watertown. The rest of the State could see anywhere from 1 to 8 inches of snow.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo directed state agencies to prepare resources in response to the expected heavy snowfall, which is expected to start later tonight and last through Saturday afternoon.

The mainline Thruway, I-90, between Exit 46 (Henrietta) and Exit 61 (Shortman Road), as well as the Niagara Section, I-190, between I-90 and Exit 16 (I-290), will be closed to tractor trailers at 9PM tonight. Starting at midnight, these same sections will be closed to all traffic. Vehicles traveling westbound on I-90 will be detoured off the roadway at Exit 46 (Henrietta), and all eastbound traffic will be detoured off at Exit 61 (Shortman Road). All vehicles traveling south on I-190 will be detoured off at Exit 16 (I-290).

“With heavy snow approaching parts of Western and Northern New York, the State is activating the Emergency Operations Center to coordinate our response and get critical equipment and supplies quickly to the communities that need assistance,” Governor Cuomo said. “I urge New Yorkers to take necessary precautions to stay safe during the storm, and avoid our roads and highways where possible.”

The National Weather Service has issued Lake Effect Snow Warnings for southern Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties starting at 10 p.m. Heavy snow, winds and bitter cold will combine to create blizzard like conditions at times, including Friday morning during the commute in the city of Buffalo. Motorists should avoid any unnecessary travel in the Buffalo region during this storm.

State equipment ready for this storm includes:

  • 1,793 plows
  • 4,184 Operators
  • 55 front-end loaders
  • 488,000 tons of salt

The New York State Emergency Operations Center will be activated at midnight tonight to monitor the storm. Agencies that will be staffing the Center are Military and Naval Affairs, Homeland Security and Emergency Services and its Offices of Emergency Management and Fire Prevention and Control, Public Service Commission, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Transportation, Thruway and the New York State Police. The New York State Office of Emergency Management has been in close contact with the National Weather Service as well as counties that may be impacted by this storm.

Starting later tonight through Saturday in the affected counties, forecasts are calling for snowfall rates of up to three inches per hour, which will result in near zero visibility and snow covered roads. Motorists should be aware that during Lake Effect storms, very heavy snow bands can occur and shift without warning. If a driver must travel, they should reduce speeds and drive with extreme caution.

New York State provides a travel advisory system that features real-time travel reports and road conditions, which can be accessed by dialing 511 or online at 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. It also provides links to airport, rail and transit information.

The New York State Department of Transportation has a total of 1,444 plows and 3,629 operators and supervisors available for this storm, along with 372,000 tons of road salt. There are 189 plows and 409 operators in the Buffalo region to clear snow, 104 plows with 223 operators ready in the Syracuse area, and 121 plows with 203 operators ready in the Watertown area. They are prepared to shift additional resources as needed to assist the hardest hit areas.

The New York State Thruway Authority has a total of 349 large and medium sized snow plows, 555 snow plow operators and supervisors, 55 front-end loaders and 116,000 tons of salt deployed across New York state for storm response and recovery efforts. The Thruway Authority is also relocating 10 plows, 28 operators, three loaders and one large snow blower from eastern New York to the Buffalo region to assist throughout the duration of this winter weather event.

All regional Troop Commanders of the New York State Police have identified resources and staffing for the storm. Troop Emergency Management personnel have been pre-designated to staff open county Emergency Operation Centers, and State Police continue to closely monitor road closures and restrictions with the Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority. All specialty vehicles in the State Polices fleet, including four wheel drive vehicles, have been prepared for emergency response use.

Snowplows travel at about 35 miles per hour, which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit, in order to ensure that salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off the roadways. The safest place for motorists is well behind the snowplows, where the roadway is clear and salted.

Motorists and pedestrians should never assume a snowplow driver can see them. Snowplow drivers have limited sight distances, with the wing blades of the vehicles obscuring their side views. The size and weight of snowplows 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.

Motorists are encouraged to sign up for TRANSalert e-mails which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway. Motorists can sign up for TRANSalerts by following this link. Thruway travelers can also get real-time updates by following @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or by visiting to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions for the Thruway and other New York State roadways.

In case of power outages at traffic signals, motorists should treat an intersection as an all-way stop.

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