As the New York City metro region — and much of the East Coast — is being battered by the season’s first major snowstorm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for the downstate region south of Westchester, which includes the city, as well as Long Island.
“This means that unless it is essential for you to be out on the roads and moving around today, you should not be,” Cuomo said at a press conference in the city Thursday morning. “If there is something you have to do today, and you have no viable alternative, then you should know you are putting yourself in a situation of risk — and other people in a situation of risk.”
Cuomo declared the state of emergency due to the “bomb cyclone,” a mix of snow, sleet and hurricane-like winds.
“This is not a normal snowstorm — that changes the situation dramatically. We can handle snow. It’s snow plus the wind which is going to cause the trouble today,” the governor added. “The storm is tracking heavier towards the east, so New York City, Nassau, Suffolk heaviest on the current track of the storm.”
Winds between 25 and 35 mph are expected, along with gusts of up 60 mph, “compounds the problem,” Cuomo said. “It’s almost impossible to clear the roads because as soon as you clear, the wind literally just brings the snow back across the road.”
Cuomo will be heading to Long Island later today, which is said is one of the most vulnerable areas of the region. He also said he expects the evening rush hour to be “more problematic” than the morning commute, which saw several delays on subways, buses and rail service.
“We have done everything that we can do in terms of preparing for the storm,” he said. “This is not our first rodeo — the storms have been getting worse, and extreme weather is a reality.”
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said that there are no plans to close the subway or stop bus service at this time, but there will be less articulated, or accordioned, buses due to the inclement weather.
He said an “enormous” number of trains were stored on express tracks overnight, which is expected to continue as conditions worsen. He added that 2,000 buses are operating with chains on their tires for better traction.
The LIRR had scattered delays during the morning rush hour, and patrol trains were deployed to clear tracks and heat switches. Lhota said that downed trees are causing a few stations to be bypassed by Metro-North trains.
Motorists should expect reduced speeds on area bridges and tunnels, and truck restrictions are in place as well.
In a later press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is working closely with the state and the MTA on all actions due to the storm, and the mayor declared a winter weather emergency across the five boroughs, which enables the city to do “what we have to do to ensure public safety.”
That means that if that if your car is blocking plowing operations, it will be towed.
“We will not be polite about that, we have to keep things moving,” he said. “What’s quite clear is that this is a serious, serious storm. Everyone should take this one very seriously and take precautions.”
While he did confirm the MTA is currently running on a fairly normal schedule, the mayor said the NYC Ferry is suspending service at noon. It is expected to resume in time for the morning commute. The Staten Island Ferry is operating on its normal midday schedule currently.
Additionally, all flights in and out of JFK and LaGuardia have been canceled.
Though the snow is forecasted to taper off by midafternoon, “we expect a tough evening commute,” de Blasio said. “At this moment, we expect schools to be open Friday.
“This is where New Yorkers have choices to make,” he continued. “Stay inside if you can. Don’t be on the roads. That’s for your own safety and allows sanitation workers to do their work.”