New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that parts of the New York State Thruway in Western New York will be closed due to extreme winter weather conditions.
The thruway between Exit 55 (Route 219/Lackawanna/Springville/Orchard Park/West Seneca) and Exit 61 (Shortman Road, Ripley) will be closed to commercial vehicles beginning at 3 p.m. today. Starting at 8 p.m., all vehicles traveling westbound on the thruway will be detoured off the roadway at Exit 50 (I-290 west), and all eastbound traffic will be detoured off at Exit 61 (Shortman Road, Ripley).
In addition, at the governor's direction, the State Emergency Operations Center will be opened at 8 p.m. tonight based on the forecasted winter weather conditions in Buffalo and Western New York.
The closure is a precautionary measure due to an extraordinary winter weather event that is forecast to include 36 inches of snow in the coming day-and-a-half, lake effect snows in some areas up to 4 inches per hour, wind gusts up to 40 mph and wind chill temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero. The thruway in this area will be reopened when conditions allow.
Motorists to Pennsylvania and points west should exit the thruway at Exit 46 (Henrietta) to I-390 southbound and then to I-86 westbound into Pennsylvania. Eastbound travelers in Pennsylvania should exit at I-86 eastbound and then continue north on I-390 to the thruway in Henrietta.
"In anticipation of major snowfall and, at times, zero visibility, I have directed the Thruway Authority to close down parts of the Thruway in Western New York for safety concerns," said Cuomo. "In addition, all New Yorkers in the area should exercise extreme caution if they have to leave their homes or travel anywhere. These precautions are done to ensure the safety of motorists, and I urge Western New Yorkers to monitor the weather and follow any instructions issued by emergency officials."
"As always, our top priority is motorist safety, and current conditions and forecasts warrant the thruway's closure between the Buffalo area and the Pennsylvania state line later today. Thruway snow removal crews will be working throughout the storm and our goal is to reopen the roadway as soon as conditions allow," said Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison. "We are detouring motorists south from the Rochester area and west on I-86 because these roadways are expected to be less severely impacted by the storm, but we urge all drivers to use extreme caution at all times during the storm."
The Thruway Authority will have 66 plows and 188 operators available during the storm, including some plows and operators that have been brought in from other Thruway divisions. In addition to the large truck-mounted snow blowers, ATVs and snowmobiles based in Western New York and mobilized for storm response, additional snow blowers and snowmobiles have also been relocated to the area for use as needed during the storm.
Thruway has nearly 25,000 tons of road salt on-hand in the Buffalo area, along with a significant quantity of liquid magnesium chloride, which is also used to treat roadways and prevent icy conditions.
The New York State Department of Transportation has 170 plows and 455 operators in the region to address storm conditions.
The Thruway Authority sent 10 plows and 11 operators to Long Island last week to assist DOT during the snowstorm there on Thursday and Friday. All of those plows and operators have returned to the Buffalo area.