Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for all of Western New York as a blizzard continues to grip the region.
The state of emergency covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Wayne and Wyoming. A Blizzard Warning is posted for those counties until 2 a.m. Thursday.
As part of the State of the Emergency, the Governor ordered the activation of the State’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 6:00 a.m. Wednesday.
“With arrival of this latest winter storm, I am declaring a state of emergency in the regions where a Blizzard Warning has been issued, so that we can effectively respond to the storm and aid communities that may experience difficulty as a result of high snowfall,” Governor Cuomo said. “These areas are expected to continue to receive heavy snow that may accumulate at rates of around one to two inches per hour, which will make it difficult for plows to keep some roads clear. New Yorkers in these areas should exercise caution until the worst of the storm has passed.”
Under a State of Emergency, critical resources that are normally restricted to State use are mobilized to assist local governments and laws and regulations that would otherwise impede their rapid response are suspended.
Heavy snow is falling across the Western New York. Temperatures are dropping to the upper teens, causing snow accumulation and slick driving conditions. Snowfall rates of one inch per hour have already occurred.
Winds with gusts of 45 miles per hour are expected Wednesday afternoon. This will cause significant blowing and drifting snow and near zero visibility at times on the roadways. In addition, snowfall rates could reach two inches per hour during the peak of the storm Wednesday afternoon.
Travel will become extremely hazardous or even nearly impossible at times. Travel is not recommended, but if you do have to head out take it slow. Forecaster suggest you take along supplies, such as food and water and a full charged cell phone when traveling in your vehicle as a precautionary measure.
Travel advisories have been posted for some counties throughout the region urging no unnecessary travel:
Citizens are advised against any unnecessary travel until further notice. City leaders are keeping a close watch on the blizzard.
Mayor Byron Brown met with reporters Wednesday. He says if motorists don't need to drive, they should stay home.
"Right now, residents are heeding the warning. They are exercising caution in driving. It doesn't appear that there is an excessive amount of people on the roads," said Brown.
Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak says snow removal crews started monitoring the storm early because timing is "crucial".
"We want to make sure we get the maximum pieces of equipment on the road and we did that," noted Stepniak. "We go on immediate 12-hour shifts. Right now we have 40+ pieces of equipment on the road. We have to pay attention to these winds because these winds continue to cover the roads with snow and they can ice over on us," Stepniak said.
Even though many people have the day off of work, parking restrictions remain in effect in the City of Buffalo. Stepniak says no parking rules allow snow plows to clear residential side streets.
There are some power outages being reported. National Grid has reported more than 120 customers without service in Buffalo. New York State Electric and Gas also reports a few dozen customers still without power. That number was over 1,700 earlier in the day.
Listen to WBFO for full coverage of the Buffalo Blizzard.