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Snow Causes NY To Declare State Of Emergency; Trucking In Road Salt

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Another widespread snowstorm has led to closings, traffic delays and frustration for those in New York and New England.

More than a foot of snow is expected to fall as the storm continues into Wednesday evening. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for the entire state. Cuomo says cities and towns in the New York City - Long Island areas have already used up their road salt supplies.

“We are also waiving regulations to allow salt trucks to deliver into the state,” Cuomo said. “The weight and some of the driving regulations will be waived to expedite and allow the delivery of salt into the state. In the mean time, we will be dispensing the state’s supply of salt, about 3,500 tons, approximately 130 truckloads, will be disseminated throughout the day.”

New York State is imposing a driving ban on Interstate 84 between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut borders. State police will be ticketing any drivers on the highway until further notice. Cuomo says the DOT is deploying over 4,000 workers using more than 2,000 pieces of snow removal equipment across New York. 

“It has been more expensive than we budgeted,” Cuomo said. “More equipment costs, more overtime costs, but it is within the margins that we can handle at this point.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has told non-essential state employees to stay home. Even though Interstate 90 remains open in the commonwealth and New York, he is urging people to keep off the roads. Patrick says 1,100 pieces of equipment have been operating since before the storm hit to pre-treat roads.

“With a storm of this size and the rate of the snowfall it’s really, really hard to keep up with the clearing of those roads,” Patrick said. “It’s nearly impossible if the roads are clogged with traffic.”

Towns and cities across the region have closed offices and placed parking restrictions on streets and municipal lots. A snow emergency is in place till Thursday morning in Pittsfield where more than 30 plows are working to clear main roads then sidewalks and parking lots. Many school districts in Massachusetts and New York have closed their doors Wednesday, but New York City schools remain open. Cuomo says he leaves those decisions up to local officials. Cuomo says the good news is the state has developed an expertise in dealing with snow and ice with the recent uptick in winter weather events.

“Mother Nature always wins in the end when she wants, but we’ve done everything that we can do to be ready,” said Cuomo.

Pittsfield public works commissioner Bruce Collingwood says freezing rain poses a difficult challenge.

“You have to get in front of it,” Collingwood said. “You don’t want that ice to form. You want to maintain a brine on the road. So you want to get the snow plowed off, treat it [the roads] and be ahead of that transition.”

In New York, more than 8,000 power outages are being reported as half an inch of ice on electrical lines has left roughly 2,500 homes without power in the New York City - Long Island area. Metro-North rail has experienced power outages due to the ice, but all lines are currently running on a reduced scheduled with delays of up to half an hour. Regional airports are open, but are urging travelers to keep up to date with their airline provider regarding cancellations and delays. While Cuomo calls this storm manageable, he says extreme weather events, regardless of the season, are becoming the new norm.

“This is a pattern of extreme weather that is posing challenges that we haven’t had to deal with before,” said Cuomo.

Snow is expected to clear out by Wednesday night as temperatures drop to near 10 degrees. Relief is scheduled for Thursday with a mix of sun and clouds and temperatures reaching into the mid-20s.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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